Skip to main content

Full text of "British Routers To India"

See other formats


BRITISH ROUTES 
TO INDIA 



LONGMANS, GREEN AND (XX 

5 5 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK 
221 EAST 20TH STREET, CHICAGO 
TREMONT TEMPLE, BOSTON 
210 VICTORIA STREET, TORONTO 


LONGMANS, GREEN AND CO. Ltd. 

3 9 PATERNOSTER ROW, E C 4 , LONDON 
53 NICOL ROAD, BOMBAY 
6 OLD COURT HOUSE STREET, CALCUTTA 
1 67 MOUNT ROAD, MADRAS 




Scenes Illustrating the Overland Route about 1855 


BRITISH ROUTES 
TO INDIA 


BY 

HALFORD LANCASTER HOSKINS, Ph.D. 

DICKSON PROFESSOR OF HISTORY 
TUFTS COLLEGE 


LONGMANS, GREEN AND CO. 
NEW YORK • LONDON • TORONTO 
1928 



HOSKINS 

BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


COPYRIGHT * I 928 
BY LONGMANS, GREEN AND CO. 

first edition 


MADE IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 



PREFACE 


T HE solicitude of the great nations of Europe for the 
countries lying at the eastern end of the Mediterranean 
has been a conspicuous feature of European interna¬ 
tional relations ever since the rise of the chronic Eastern Question. 
While the motives of the Powers concerned with this problem 
have been various, the Question was fundamentally due to the 
existence of certain broad natural highways leading from the 
Mediterranean toward the jealously guarded confines of India. 
It was the decadence of the Mohammedan states lying athwart 
these highways, coincident with the phenomenal development of 
western Europe, which made the Near and Middle East the scene 
of such fierce European rivalry during the nineteenth century. 
The political difficulties arising in these areas have been studied 
from sundry points of view, but scant attention has been devoted 
to the simultaneous development of lines of communication along 
these natural routes. The early instances of the use of the shorter 
routes for purposes of communication were as unimpressive as the 
casual trading voyages of the late eighteenth century with which 
they began. But European imperialism presently added vast sig¬ 
nificance to these routes and definite lines of access were projected 
and developed, ;which,Jn addition to economic and social uses in 
times of peace, would serve military purposes in times of war and 
political objects on all occasions. 

The recounting ^‘f the^e developments has supplied a theme 
large for the space limits assigned to it. Much pertinent material 
has necessarily been omitted, and matters with which the reader is 
likely to be more or less familiar have been greatly abridged. For 
the same reason, only the most requisite or suggestive of the 
sources consulted have been cited. If the account thus lacks some 
of the elements of completeness, it may still suffice to throw new 
and interesting light on the international bearings of the routes 
described, and on the foreign policy of Great Britain in particular. 

In the course of this work, I have frequently been placed under 
obligation for courtesies rendered. I desire to acknowledge my 
indebtedness to those in charge of the British Museum and the 



VI 


PREFACE 

Public Record Office in London, and in particular to Sir William 
Foster, late Historiographer of the India Office, for valuable 
assistance. Several English commercial houses with Eastern in¬ 
terests have kindly furnished information which could not other¬ 
wise have been obtained. In this regard, Mr. Francis W. Parry, 
Secretary of the Euphrates and Tigris Steam Navigation. Com¬ 
pany, has been most considerate in supplying both information and 
photographs of scenes of the Company’s activities. To my much- 
tried friend and former teacher, Professor William E. Lingelbach, 
of the University of Pennsylvania, I am especially grateful for 
practical counsel and hearty encouragement since this work was 
first undertaken. I have been fortunate in having the benefit of 
some very timely suggestions from Professor Charles K. Webster, 
of the University of Wales. Professor Wilbur C. Abbott, of 
Harvard University, made some valuable comments on the book 
in one of its early stages, as did the late Professor Archibald Cary 
Coolidge, of Harvard. Also I wish to thank President John A. 
Cousens, of Tufts College, for appreciative and generqus co¬ 
operation. These kindnesses and others unrecorded have been as 
oases in the deserts of doubt and difficulty through which one must 
travel who seeks to explore the past. 

Halford Lancaster Hoskins 


West Somerville, Massachusetts 
August , 1928 



CONTENTS 


CHAPTER PAGE 

L Beginnings of English Interest in Egypt. . i 
The trend toward the East — English penetration 
into the Mediterranean — Monopoly of the Cape 
Route — The political situation in Egypt — James 
Bruce and plans for a route through Egypt — The 
Treaty of 1775 — George Baldwin and the Egyptian 
trade — Turkish attacks on the navigation of the Red 
Sea — Obstacles to the transit through Egypt — 
French designs on Egypt — Baldwin’s desire for pre¬ 
ferment— Egyptian treachery in 1779 — Decline of 
the Overland Route. 

II. International Competition for the Overland 

Route. 26 

Austrian interest in Egypt — French activities — 
Truguet’s Treaty with the Beys, 1775 — English dis¬ 
covery of the document — Changes in English Levan¬ 
tine policy — Appointment of Baldwin as Consul in 
Egypt — Revival of the English Overland Route — 
Turkish chastisement of the Beys — Turkish refusal 
to regularize the navigation of the Red Sea — Decline 
of English interest in the Overland Passage — Bald¬ 
win’s Treaty of 1794 — Russian projects in Turkey 
and Egypt — French plans for the occupation of 
Egypt. 

HI. Blows at Britain’s “Feet of Clay” .... 54 

The French Revolution and eastern policy — Bona¬ 
parte’s preparations for an Egyptian Expedition — 

Early accomplishments of the Expedition — The 
Battle of the Nile — French invasion of Syria — Tem¬ 
porary English occupation of Egypt — The rise of 
Mehemet All — English attempts to dominate the 
eastern Mediterranean — British diplomatic estab¬ 
lishments in western Asia — The route through Meso¬ 
potamia— The first Persian mission — Napoleon’s 
designs on Persia: Gardane — Rival missions of 
Jones and Malcolm — Recovery of British influence, 
vii 




Vlll 


CONTENTS 


CHAPTER PACE 

IV. Steam and the All-Sea Route to India . . go 

The Cape Route — Voyages of the old East Indiamen 
— Inadequacies of the route — Increasing value of 
the Indian trade — The early steam vessel — Early 
plans for steam communication with India — The 
Calcutta Steam Committee — Projects of Cap t, James 
Henry Johnston — Voyage of the Enterprize — Par¬ 
tial failure of the promoters — Effects of the voyage 
— Schemes of James W. Taylor and Thomas Wag- 
horn — Practical work of the Bombay Government. 

V. Tentative Trials of the Suez Passage . . . 103 

Steam plans of the Bombay Government — Obstacles 
to the development of the Overland Route — Efforts 
of Governor Malcolm — Early voyages of the Hugh 
Lindsay — Attitude of the Home Authorities —- First 
English steam lines in the Mediterranean — The 
project of J. W. Taylor — His untimely death — 
Further activities of Thomas Waghorn — Plans of 
the Calcutta Steam Committee — The Forbes — 
Growth of steam interest in England. 

VI. The Shaping of a British Eastern Policy . 128 

Rise of the Eastern Question — The Greek Revolu¬ 
tion— Navarino—Influence of the Russo-Turkish 
War—Changes in British foreign policy — French 
motives for an Algerian expedition — Anglo-French 
diplomatic relations — Effects of the July Revolu¬ 
tion — Mehemet Ali — Invasion of Syria — Russian 
intervention — Capt. F. R. Chesney — Personal sur¬ 
vey of the Euphrates River — Reports on its naviga¬ 
bility. 

VIL Attempts to Open the Euphrates Route . . 154 

Chesney’s timely reports — The Select Parliamentary 
Committee of 1834 — Plans for a steam survey of the 
Euphrates — Money appropriations — Formation of 
the Euphrates Expedition — Turkish approval — 

Early difficulties of the Expedition — Beginning of 
the survey — Loss of the Tigris — Failure to ascend 
the Euphrates — The opening of the Tigris and 
Karun — Termination of the Expedition — The Par¬ 
liamentary Committee of 1837 — Rise of new political 
emergencies — Further Mesopotamian surveys under 
Indian auspices. 



CONTENTS 


IX 


CHAPTER PAGE 

VIII. Paving the Way to India. 183 


Origin of the Bombay Marine — Early marine sur¬ 
veys — The Indian Navy — 1 alter surveys — Socotra 
— Evolution of a Steam Service — Search for a 
steam supply base — Case of the Daria Doivlut — 

• Negotiations for the purchase of Aden — Arab du¬ 
plicity—The capture of Aden — Its justification. 

IX, Estxbushmknt of the Overran!) Route . . . 208 

Conversion of the Court of Directors — Beginning of 
regular overland mails, 1835 — Independent efforts 
of the Calcutta Steam Committee — The East India 
Steam Navigation Company - Additions to the 
steam branch of the Indian Navy ■ Recommenda¬ 
tions of the Select Committee of 1837 - The joint 
plan of Indian communications" Continental mail 
and passenger routes - New Indian steam units — 

The transit through Egypt — A transit war — Plans 

• for an Egyptian railway Forma! op ming of the 
Overland Route' - The beginning of an era, 

X, The Comprehensive Pi,an of Communication 236 
Improvements in the overland passage — Revival of 
the railway idea — The Egyptian Transit Company 
- - The Transit Administration * Rise of the Penin¬ 
sular ami Oriental Company — Absorption of rival 
concerns • 1 early mail contracts -~ Rise of a “com¬ 

prehensive” system - Agitation of the Australian 
colonies —* The Select Committee of 1851—New 
routes to the loir East — Improved steam equipment 
in eastern wafers — Reduction of time distances, 

XL Disputed Guardianship of the Routes to 

India....266 

Russia ami rite Treaty of Cnkiar Skelessi — Advance 
of Mehemef Aii in Arabia — French activities in 
Egypt Critical state of the Eastern Question — 
British problems in the Middle ami Far least — Re¬ 
newal of Tureo-Egyptian hostilities —■ European 
diplomacy ~ The Convention of July 15, 1840 — 
French threats of war *»"- Attitude of Mehemet Aii 
— The Turkish firman of deposition — Wisdom of 
Louis Philippe — Concessions to Mehemet Aii — 
Renewal of the Concert, June 1,1841 — Criticisms of 
Palmerston's policy — The Overland Route during 
the Syrian crisis. 




X 


CONTENTS 


CHAPTER PAGE 

XII. Beginnings of the Suez Canal. 291 


Ancient canals through Egypt — Bonaparte’s canal 
survey — Plans of Mehemet Ali — Reasons for Eng¬ 
lish official opposition — The Egyptian Railway — 

The survey of 1847 — Robert Stephenson — Acces¬ 
sion of Abbas Pasha — Lapse of the canal idea 
— Building of the Railway — Said Pasha and the 
appearance of De Lesseps — Opening of the diploma¬ 
tic struggle — “Sultan” Stratford — Rival influences 
at the Porte — Attitude of the French Government 
— De Lesseps in England — The International 
Scientific Commission — The first Canal Concession 
— Imminent defeat of the Canal. 

XIII. The Euphrates Valley Railway. 321 

New troubles in the Near East — Alignment of 
European Powers — Opening of the Crimean War — 
Defensive preparations of Great Britain — The war 
with Persia — The idea of a “ World’s Highway*’ 
railway — R. M. Stephenson — W. P. Andrew — 
Prospectus of the Euphrates Valley Railway Com¬ 
pany— The European and Indian Junction Tele¬ 
graph— Attitude of the Foreign Office ■—French 
Competition — The Turkish firman — Palmerston’s 
desertion of the project — Probable cause — Lapse 
of the Euphrates project. 


XIV. The Building of the Suez Canal. 

De Lesseps in England —The barrier of political 
hostility — The impasse at Constantinople *— Retire¬ 
ment of Lord Stratford — Lack of change at the 
Porte — Expressions in the House of Commons — 
Formation of the Suez Canal Company —Com¬ 
mencement of work on the Canal — Diplomatic 
obstacles — The corvee — Ismail Pasha — Suspen- 
sion of Canal activities — Napoleon III as arbiter — 
The firman — Physical problem of the Canal — 
Progress of the Work — Completion of the Canal 
— Elaborate opening ceremonies. 


343 


XV. Telegraphic Routes to the East. 

"Potentialities of the electric telegraph — The first 
Mediterranean cables — The- project for a Mesopo¬ 
tamian line — Failures of the Red Sea and India Co. 

Obstacles to submarine cable efficiency—The 
Malta-Alexandria line — A land line to the Persian 







CONTENTS 


xi 


CHAPTER PAGE 

Gulf —The Persian Gulf cable — Opening of the 
first line to India — The Persian auxiliary line — 
European telegraphic routes — Land lines in India 
■— Abuses in the overland service — The Select 
Committee of 1866 — New Mediterranean cables — 
Completion of an all-British line to India — The 
Eastern Group — The comprehensive plan of tele¬ 
graphic communication — Improvement of land lines. 

XVI. Improvements in Eastern Communications. . 398 

Shortcomings of the Overland Route— Its use during 
the Crimean War — The Indian Mutiny — Delay in 
sending reenforcements through Egypt — “Political 
and other considerations’" — Turkish and Egyptian 
cooperation — The Select Committee of 1858 —The 
Overland Route as a military highway— Considera¬ 
tion of new European routes for eastern mails — The 
German route — Retention of the Marseilles line — 
Expansion of the P. & O. Co. — Effects of the Suez 
Canal — Abandonment of the Overland Route — Im¬ 
proved eastern communications — Evolution of the 
steamship — New competitors of the P. & 0 . — Ex¬ 
tent of Improvements. 

XVII. Revival of Projects for an Alternative 

Route.. 423 

The commercial opening of Mesopotamia — The 
Lynch Company— Relations with Ottoman authori¬ 
ties — Competition 011 the Tigris — British interest 
in Lynch enterprises — New plans for a Euphrates 
Valley Railway — Influence of the Suez Canal — The 
Select Committee of 1870-72— Weak points in its 
Report —■ Decline of Government interest — Russia 
and the frontiers of India — The Russo-Turkish War 
— The Congress of Berlin — The Cyprus Convention 
— Government explanations—Cyprus as a point de 
dipart and place d'armes — Private projects for a 
Euphrates Valley line — Construction of short lines 
in Asiatic Turkey — Beginnings of the Bagdadbahn 
— Tardy changes in British policy. 

XVIII. The Canal and the Control of Egypt . . . 453 

Financial problems and policies of the Canal Com¬ 
pany — The tolls issue — The International Commis¬ 
sion — Proposed sale of the Khedive’s Canal shares 
— English diplomacy — Consummation of the pur- 




CONTENTS 


PAGE 


xii 

CHAPTER 


chase — European attitude — Disraeli s justification 
of the act — The Canal as a commercial highway — 
Effect on shipping — Necessity for frequent enlarge- 
ment —The Royal Titles Act—Financial predicament 
of the Khedive — Dual Control British conquest 
of Egypt — The Sudan — Internationalizing of the 
Canal — English responsibilities in Egypt. 

Index... 




ILLUSTRATIONS 


Scenes Illustrating the Overland Route about 1855 

[[From Bradshaw’s Indian Guide'} . Frontispiece 

The S. S. Enterprize, Which Reached India From 
England in 1826 [[After a rare drawing, supplied 
from the collection of Mr. Francis B. C. Bradlee, of 
Marblehead, Massachusetts]. Facing page 96 

The Firebrand , First Admiralty Packet Steamer in 
the Mediterranean [[From an old print in the pos¬ 
session of the author]. 96 

Steamers Euphrates and Tigris on the Euphrates 
River in May, 1836 [From Chesney’s Narrative of the 
Euphrates Expedition ].168 

The Roadstead of Suez about 1840 [After an old print] 168 

Map of Lower Egypt, Showing Overland, Railway, 

and Canal Routes.234 

General Francis R. Chesney [From The Life of the Late 

General F. R. Chesney , by his Wife and Daughter] . . 336 

Bust of Thomas Waghorn at Suez [From a recent 
photograph, by courtesy of Mr. Maynard Owen 


Williams].336 

Map Showing Routes of Communication to India about 

1875 .39 6 

The Bentinck at Aden in January, 1844 [From an old 
print, by courtesy of Messrs. Thos. H. Parker, 28 
Berkeley Square, London].426 

The Blosse Lynch at Bagdad about 1877 [From a 
photograph in the collection of the Euphrates and 
Tigris Steam Navigation Company].426 













BRITISH ROUTES 
TO INDIA 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


CHAPTER l 

BEGINNINGS OF ENGLISH INTEREST IN EGYPT 

O NE OF the most striking characteristics of early modern 
times was the rapid and extensive development of Euro¬ 
pean overseas trade. This revolution in commerce, mark¬ 
ing the emergence of the modern nation-state from the confusion 
of mediaeval times, has had a profound influence on the whole of 
the modern era. The world of the twentieth century has learned 
to trace from the commercial movement of the sixteenth the 
colonizing activities of the seventeenth, the overseas wars of con¬ 
quest of the eighteenth, and the industrial revolution and eco¬ 
nomic imperialism of the nineteenth century. 

The appetites created by early commercial growth found great¬ 
est satisfaction in the wares of the Orient, and thence the trading 
fleets of the West quickly found their way. From the voyages of 
circumnavigation of Drake and Cavendish until the beginning 
of the second quarter of the nineteenth century, the British were 
accustomed to approach their commercial domain in India by way 
of the Cape of Good Hope. 1 First contacts with India, however, 
had been established by way of the Mediterranean j and since 
these early ventures exerted a certain influence on the reestablish¬ 
ment of contacts between India and England much later by this 
channel, it will be worth while briefly to review early activities 
in the eastern Mediterranean area. 

English traders had made no especial attempt to secure a share 
of European trade prior to 1500. The beginning of the sixteenth 
century found England for the first time in a position to cast her 

1 H. G* Rawlinson, British Beginnings in Western India > 1579—1657 (Oxford, 
1920), p. 22, 'passim; J. Charles-Roux, Ulsthme et le Canal £e Suez (2 vol$., Paris, 



2 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


bread upon the waters. The Hundred Years’ War with France 
had resulted in the loss of English continental possessions where 
strength and fortune might be dissipated, and the end of the Wars 
of the Roses had given the country a centralized government 
under a dynasty which was not averse from innovations. The sea, 
therefore, began to offer an outlet for surplus wealth and energy, 
and as the century advanced small and clumsy craft ventured 
down the coast of Europe and into the Mediterranean, where they 
caused no little worry to the Spanish, French and Venetians who 
were already on the scene. 

This Mediterranean trade is interesting, both because of its 
nature 2 and because it led to the first English diplomatic establish¬ 
ments in the Levant. To the eastern shores of the Mediterranean 
various kinds of oriental goods still found their laborious way 
by the routes which had been employed to some extent since 
mediaeval and perhaps since ancient times. 3 The all-sea route to 
the sources of these oriental products was known but it was not 
attempted by English mariners until near the end of the sixteenth 
century because of the numerous hazards from natural fouces and 
from hostile Hispanic fleets. The appetite created by these tastes 
of eastern wares led to the beginning of English diplomatic re¬ 
lations with the Turkish Empire. In the sixteenth century the 
favor of the Grand Seignior was courted by the representatives of 
several nations, not only because the Turkish Empire had not 
then entered upon a serious decline, but also because it controlled 
the existing overland trade routes to the Orient. At the outset, 
French agents, stoutly supported by their government and abetted 
by the Venetians, succeeded in greatly embarrassing the English 
Levant Company and in limiting its trading privileges. But the 
recognition of William Harborne as English Ambassador by the 
Sultan in 1583 4 marks the beginning of an important epoch in 
English relations with the East. Harborne and his immediate suc¬ 
cessors, Edward Barton and Henry Lello, had hard shift to up¬ 
hold the interests of their countrymen j but they succeeded at last 
in firmly establishing English influence at Constantinople/ and 


2 The character of the Mediterranean trade is well shown by entries in the 
Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, CLV, and Venetian Series, 1592-1603. 
See Mordecai Epstein, Early Bistory of the Levant Company (London, iqoS), 
pp. 6, 52. > ? 


3 H. G. Rawlinson, Intercourse between India and the Western World to the Fall 
of Rome (2d ed., London, 1926). 

4 Harborne was sent out and maintained by the Ldvant Company, although he 
was^accredited by the Queen’s government.— Epstein, op. cit pp. 12-13. 

Cal. of St. Pap., Venetian, 1592-1603, pp. vii, xliv, and Nos. 131, 191, 501. 

ft!* 6625 Ac J\ 0 J the Pr ™z£°™ cil > i 599~i6o 3) p. 339 5 Historical Manuscripts 
Commission Publications, XXXVII, 202. r 



3 


ENGLISH INTEREST IN EGYPT 

except for a few brief estrangements, it was not seriously disturbed 
until late in the nineteenth century. 

As the sixteenth century drew toward a close, the Mediterra¬ 
nean trade no longer sufficed as a source of eastern goods for 
English markets. Having discovered their ability to compete .on 
even terms with their European contemporaries, the English 
began ’to experience an urge to trace eastern products to their 
sources. Then ensued one series after another of attempts to reach 
the eastern shores of Asia by routes other than the preempted one 
around the Cape of Good Hope. One after another of these, the 
northeast, northwest, and southeast, passages were tried and aban¬ 
doned, either because of physical obstructions or over-great dis¬ 
tance. 0 Journeys overland to India from the eastern Mediterra¬ 
nean resulted in the gaining of much useful information, but 
failed to disclose practicable trade routes in the then political state 
of the countries of western Asia and the means of transportation 
available. 7 The first tentative ventures to the East around the tip 
of Africa, however, disclosed so much of the decline of Hispanic 
power and opened up such an amazing source of wealth, that at 
the close of the century the English largely abandoned the lucra¬ 
tive Mediterranean trade for the more dangerous but much more 
lucrative trade by the all-sea route. The success of this shift in 
interest was assured by the chartering of the East India Company 
on December 31, 1600. Thenceforward the Cape route was the 
English route to the East far excellence, and it remained so until 
the many changes due to the Industrial Revolution effected a re¬ 
turn of lines of communication and trade to the Mediterranean in 
the nineteenth century. 

English absorption in the all-sea route to India militated against 
the vigorous maintenance of interests in the Levant, and for the 
greater part of two centuries Englishmen were content to trade 
under the Capitulations issued in 1604, which conceded to the 
English most of the privileges which had been granted to the 
French in 1535, that is, the right of trading in all Ottoman ports 
under their own flag. 8 During most of this time England did not 

6 The accounts of the pathfinding voyages of such discoverers as Willoughby 
and Chancellor, Gilbert, Frobisher and Davis, Hawkins, Drake and Cavendish, are 
detailed in Samuel Purchas’ Pilgrimes. 

7 It would seem, however, that the information gained as a result of the New- 
bery-Fitch expedition and the journeys of Mildenhall, William Hawkins, Finch, the 
Shirley brothers, and others was responsible to a large degree for the first voyages 
made to India around the Cape of Good Hope. See Rawlinson, British Beginnings , 
pp. 21-51 * (Sir) William Foster, Early Travels in India, 1583-1619 (Oxford, 
1921), Parliamentary Paper, 1834, No. 47*, Appendix 8, p. 17; Sir Austen Henry 
Layard in the Quarterly Review, CII, 363-364. 

8 William Miller, The Ottoman Empire and Its Successors, 1801-1922 (Cam- 



4 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

regularly maintain consular officials in Egypt and in Syria, and 
such small commercial interests as remained in the ports ot the 
Ottoman Empire were usually left in the hands of Italians. 
Meanwhile, the factors of the East India Company at Bombay 
had found profit in approaching the western shores of Asia irom 
the East. Toward the close of the seventeenth century, English 
vessels crossed the Arabian Sea, entered the Red Sea, and at'Mocha 
purchased quantities of Arabian coffee on very favorable terms. 
It was this advance toward Europe from the Orient which rust 
suggested the expediency of establishing connections between 
England and the southern coasts of Asia by a passage through 

In 1698 one Henry Tistew, who had formerly been English 
Consul at Tripoli in Syria, passed through Egypt and made his way 
down the Red Sea and thence to Surat with the idea of developing 
a trade route through Egypt and the Red Sea. . He was foiled in 
this principally by the Ottoman ban on the navigation of the Red 
Sea north of the port of Jeddah by all Christian vessels because 
of the proximity of the Holy Cities of Medina and Mecca. But 
the trade in coffee between Jeddah, Mocha, and Bombay in Eng¬ 
lish and in native vessels flourished, and during at least a part of 
the eighteenth century it was sufficient to warrant the maintenance 
by the East India Company of an English resident at Mocha. 1 

After having become masters of the ocean passage to India, the 
English had little desire to return to the Mediterranean. The 
route by way of the Cape of Good Hope served sufficiently well 
both for the exchanging of messages and the transportation of 
goods. Moreover, it had the considerable additional advantage 
after the early years of the seventeenth century of being closed to 
other Europeans or even to English interlopers. 11 What matter, 
then, if the French held sway in the eastern Mediterranean, as 

bridge, Eng., 1923)^. 25 E. Driault, La Question d } Orient defuis see Origines jusqu'a 
laPaix de Sevres (1920) (8th ed., Paris, 1921) 5 E. A. Freeman, The Ottoman Power 
m Eurofe (London, 1877) 5 C te A. de la Jonquiere, Histoire de PEmpire Ottoman 
(Rev. ed., 2 vols., Paris, 1914), I. 

9 Paul Masson, Htstoire du Commerce Frangais dans le Levant au Dixseftihne 
Steele (Paris, 1896); Francois Charles-Roux, VAngleterre, Plsthme de Suez ) et 
V&gyfte au XVIII 6 Steele (Paris, 1922), pp. 2 fL 

10 Despatch from Benoist de Maillet, French consul at Cairo, to the Chamber of 
Commerce of Marseilles, 10 Mar., 1698; quoted in Charles-Roux, of . cit, y p. 7. 

11 Strictly speaking, Christians were forbidden to enter the Red Sea further than 
the port of Mocha, but the trade to Jeddah was tolerated by the local chiefs. See 
Charles-Roux, of. eit p. 42, fassim. 

12 F. Charles-Roux, Les Origines de PExfedition d’Egyfte (Paris, 19x0), p. 295 
L } Angleterre y Plsthme de Suez , et PEgyfte , pp. 8 if. Charles-Roux in this latter 
work has made an excellent study of the beginnings of French and English relations 
in the Near East up to the interruption caused by the French expedition in 1798. 

13 Except, of course, those licensed by the Crown, of which there were altogether 
too many for the best interests of the old East India Company. 



ENGLISH INTEREST IN EGYPT 


5 


long as the Red Sea remained closed to Christian trade? Prior to 
1770, the only occasions on which English representatives in the 
Levant displayed noticeable interest in a route to India by way 
of Suez was at such times as other nations, the Austrians or the 
French, were suspected of planning to make use of this line. 11 
The old Levant Company meanwhile had so far declined that, as 
far as Egypt was concerned, English trade was practically at a 
standstill. French interests were increasing in the Near East, 
those of the English in the countries beyond. 

Shortly after the middle of the eighteenth century began a re¬ 
markable series of events which quickly combined to alter per¬ 
manently the political and commercial complexion of the region 
of the eastern Mediterranean. In 1766, Ali Bey, one of the 
twenty-four Mameluke Beys of Egypt, asserted his supremacy 
over his fellows, and by dint of assassination and exile established 
it. He sent the Pasha of Cairo back to Constantinople, refused to 
pay tribute to the Ottoman Government, established his own coin¬ 
age, and assumed the title of Sultan of Egypt. Almost at one 
stroke, Egypt became, to all intents and purposes, independent. 
Ali Bey was destined to enj oy his supremacy but a brief time, but 
his example found imitators. For the next quarter of a cen¬ 
tury Egypt remained in successful rebellion, and gave every ap¬ 
pearance of having entirely escaped from the suzerainty of the 
Sultan. 15 

t 

This internal situation in Egypt coincided with a succession of 
wars between Turkey on the one hand and Russia and Austria on 
the other, in which the former was seriously worsted. The Euro¬ 
pean wars of Turkey, together with the situation in Egypt and in 
India, gave rise to new and far-reaching ideas in France and Eng¬ 
land. The French Government, believing the partition of the 
Ottoman Empire to be at hand, conceived the idea of securing a 
share of the spoils and acquiring compensation for the recent loss 
of territories in India by seizing Egypt at some moment of internal 
confusion. 16 England also was attracted, but differently, by the 
situation. Having been unable to open a communication through 
the Red Sea at an earlier date because of the Turkish prohibition, it 
now appeared a feasible matter to accomplish this purpose by nego¬ 
tiation with the Egyptian Beys. 17 

Two methods were available for undertaking to establish re- 

14 Charles-Roux, UAngleterre, etc., pp. 13—15. 

15 Ibid.) pp. 20-21. 

16 Charles-Roux traces the expedition of Bonaparte to this persistent idea. 
See his Qrigines de PExpedition d'&gyfte } pp. 28 fL 

17 State Papers, Turkey, Letters from John Murray, 13 Nov., 1768 to 3 July, 
1770; cited in Charles-Roux, VAngleierre , etc., pp. 22, 25. 



6 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

lations between Europe and India by way of Egypt. One was to 
approach the Porte, as the sovereign power, for the necessary au¬ 
thorization ; the other was to take up the matter with the local 
authorities. The French had generally favored the former policy 
from the days of Louis XIV. 18 The English, after 177 °’ pre¬ 
ferred the latter, and during the troublous times that followed 
the cou'p d’etat of Ali Bey in 1766, they had, for the time being, 
an open field for diplomacy in Egypt. 19 

Definite projects for the utilization of Egypt for purposes of 
trade and communication began with the arrival at Alexandria in 
June, 1768, of James Bruce, lately English Consul at Algiers. 
On his way to Asia via the Red Sea, he examined Egypt with a 
critical eye. He was astonished to find that none of his country¬ 
men was established in Egypt at the time. To pave the way for 
English enterprise, Bruce conferred with Ali Bey, talked with the 
merchants of various European countries, visited upper Egypt and 
Egyptian Red Sea ports, and finally, in May, 1769, proceeded to 
Jeddah. Here he found two English merchant vessels from In¬ 
dia, the Merchant of Bengal , commanded by Capt. Cuthbert 
Thornhill, and the Lion, in charge of Captain Thomas Price, of 
Bombay. Both men were deeply interested in the possibilities of 
opening up trade with Egypt, because they considered themselves 
imposed on by the excessive customs duties levied on them at 
Arabian ports. 20 A plan was therefore concerted between Bruce 
and Thornhill, whereby the former, returning to Cairo by way of 
upper Egypt, should attempt to conclude a commercial treaty with 
the Bey, while the latter, on his next voyage from Bengal, would 
sail to Suez. 21 

Before Bruce again reached Cairo, Ali Bey, guided partly by 
his own commercial instinct and partly by the arguments of a 
Venetian merchant, Carlo Rosetti, had already opened the port 
of Suez and had embarked on a career of conquest in Arabia. In 
this undertaking he was prompted less, perhaps, by a desire to con¬ 
trol the Holy Places and the important markets of Mocha and 
Jeddah than to effect a return of the European trade around the 

18 See G. Poignant, in Questions Diplomatiques et Colo males, XXXV, 265 
British and Foreign State Papers, IV, No. 732; Quart. Rev., XXVI, 444,-44.5. 

19 Charles-Roux insists that the idea of developing a route through Egypt was 
originally and essentially French, because of the character of their activities in Turkey 
and in Egypt in the sixteenth century. 

20 This is borne out by the correspondence exchanged between the Government 
of Bengal and the Pasha of Jeddah in 1773-1774. — Imperial Record Department, 
Calendar of Persian Correspondence , (Calcutta, 1925), IV, 21, 107, 122, passim. 

21 James Bruce, Travels ... to Discover the Source of the Nile, in the Years 
1768-1773 (5 vols., Edinburgh, 1790), I, 70 Alexander Murray, Account of 
the Life and Writings of James Bruce, of Kinnatrd. . . (Edinburgh and London, 
1808), pp. 61-67, in, m, 



ENGLISH INTEREST IN EGYPT 


7 

Cape of Good Hope to its former direct channels. At the same 
time he despatched a “ very sensible letter ” to the Governor of 
Bengal, pointing out the manifold advantages of opening a trade 
to Egypt.' 2 This was sufficient encouragement to bring about the 
formation at Calcutta by Capt. Thornhill and some of his asso¬ 
ciates of a small joint stock company for the trade to Egypt, the 
first dividends to be paid upon the return of the first vessel from 
Suez. 23 While this group were preparing for a voyage to Suez, 
Warren Hastings, who had just come out to Bengal as Governor- 
General, despatched a note, with suitable presents, to Ali Bey, 
expressing appreciation for the invitation to trade, and assuring 
him that a vessel would be sent to Egypt the next year. 24 

About the same time it occurred to the Governor-General that 
the route through the Red Sea and across Egypt might prove con¬ 
venient for the transmission of despatches. 25 Finding that the 
Bengal merchants, Capt. Thornhill, and some of his former asso¬ 
ciates in the trade to Mocha and Jeddah, Robert Halford and 
David Killican, were projecting a trading voyage to Suez, Has¬ 
tings gave them all encouragement. On November 18, 1773, he 
wrote the Court of Directors of the East India Company in 
London, that — 

The President [i.e., of the Bengal Presidency] informs 
the Board that Messrs. Thornhill, Halford, and Killikan, 
having sometime ago communicated to him the plan of a 
voyage to Suez, he was induced by the Prospects which the 
introduction of this new and hitherto untried Channel of 
Trade afforded him both of improving the General Com¬ 
merce of these Provinces and of establishing a new and con¬ 
tinual communication of Letters with the Honble. Court in 
England, to take a concern in it. 20 

22 British Museum, Additional Manuscripts, 29210, Folios 428, 429, “Proposals 
for a commerce to Suez ”5 cited by Charles-Roux, L’Angleterre, etc., p. 33. 

22 Brit. Mus., Add. Mss., 29210, Fos., 426, 426^; cited in Charles-Roux, op. cit. } 
P* 34 - 

24 Cal. of Per. Corres. } IV, 21; George Baldwin, “The Communication with 
India by the Isthmus of Suez, vindicated from the prejudices which have prevailed 
against it ” (1784), in India Office, Factory Records, Egypt and Red Sea, voL 5. 

25 George Baldwin, later an official agent in Egypt, claimed credit for being the 
first to suggest the use of the route through Egypt for despatches. See his Political 
Recollections relative to Egyft$ Containing Observations on Its Government under 
the Mamelukes , Its Geographical Position ; —Its Intrinsic and Extrinsic Resources ; — 
Its Relative Importance to England and France; and Its Dangers to England in the 
Possession of France (London, 1801), p. 65, and Col. James Capper, Observations 
on the Passage to India through Egypt and across the Great Desert (London, 1784), 
Introduction. 

26 I. O., Factory Records, ut supra , Vol. 5$ Extract of a Bengal Public Consulta¬ 
tion, 18 Nov., 1773. 



8 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


This action was approved by the Court, who suggested that the 
Governor-General place a schooner at the service of the merchants 
to accompany their trading vessel and to make a survey of the Red 
Sea, a that navigation being hitherto unknown.” 

The approval and suggestions of the London authorities was 
anticipated by the Governor-General, who placed a small, vessel, 
the Culladore , at the service of the merchants, and wished their 
venture bon voyage before hearing from London. But Fate did 
not smile on this pioneering expedition. Shortly after the de¬ 
parture of the two vessels from Calcutta early in x 774, Hastings 
was compelled to record in another letter to the home authorities 
that “ soon after the departure of these vessels, they were over¬ 
taken by a Violent Gale of Wind in the Bay, in which the [trading] 
ship received great damage . . . and the Schooner has not since 
been heard of.” 27 

Under a less vigorous Indian administration than that of War¬ 
ren Hastings, this might well have ended the whole plan for offi¬ 
cially utilizing the Red Sea and the overland passage through 
Egypt. But while the incident was discouraging, it merely gave 
him time for maturing his arrangements for subsequent voyages 
through Egypt. He wrote almost at once to Ali Bey, informing 
him of the disaster and promising another vessel in another year. 28 
The opening up of the Egyptian route, Hastings wrote to the 
home authorities, he considered a matter of “ great public utility.” 
After some vessels had successfully made the voyage to the Red 
Sea, in 1775 he despatched agents to Cairo to arrange, if possible, 
for privileges of trade from India and for a regular system of 
communication through Egypt. The proposed treaty provided 
for “ a reciprocal and entirely perfect liberty of navigation and 
commerce between the subjects on each part, through all and every 
the Dominions and Provinces under their Government in India 
and Egypt, concerning all and singular kinds of goods. . .” 
English merchant vessels were to pay anchorage charges in Egyp¬ 
tian ports, and goods brought in for sale were to pay customs 
duties of 6 ^ % to 8 %, but only after such goods were sold. Cairo 
was appointed as the Egyptian market.' 0 This treaty, providing 


I. O. Records, at supra; Extract of a General Letter from Bengal, i < March 
28 Cal. of Per. Carres., IV, 1SJ . 

♦ li, 0 ™ ReC ° rds ’ at su f ra > y° L s ’ 11 Treat y of Navigation and Commerce be- 
tween the Most Serene and Mahometan Bey of Upper and Lower Egypt, and the 
Honble.. Warren Hastings, Esqr., President and Governor for Affairs of the British 
Nation m Bengal . concluded at Cairo the 7 th day of March, i 77S .” See Le 
Baron I. de Testa, Recuetl des Traites de la Porte Ottomane, asoec Us Puissances 

I" ^ C ° ndu en 1536 ■ ■ ■ jus ^ u ’ A nos i° urs (« vols.. 

Pans, 1864), I, 481; J. Charles-Roux, VIstkme et le Canal de Suez (z vols., Paris 
1901;, l, Annexe 4. v J 



ENGLISH INTEREST IN EGYPT 


9 


greater sureties than previous irregular concessions, laid the basis 
for an extensive English trade in the months to come, regardless 
of the fact that without ratification by the Porte on the one hand 
and the British Government on the other the treaty could not be 
considered as binding. 

Meanwhile, political conditions in Egypt and the Hedjaz had 
changed. The Arabs had driven the Egyptian garrisons out of 
Mecca and Jeddah, and had restored Ottoman authority. In 
Egypt itself Ali Bey had been overthrown by one of his lieutenants 
and had fled to Syria. The accession of the new Bey, Mohammed 
Abou Dahab, had disrupted the trade which was beginning to reach 
Egypt by way of the Red Sea. At this point, in January, 1773, 
James Bruce again reached Cairo, having experienced difficulties 
and dangers of all kinds during his return from Jeddah. 30 He 
was able, however, to ingratiate himself with the new despot, and 
to take up with him the matter of a definite arrangement under 
which English trade might continue, and to effect an agreement 
under which English goods should pay 8 % customs duties instead 
of the 14% usually levied at Jeddah. The substance of this ac¬ 
cord Bruce immediately communicated to Captains Thornhill and 
Price, whom he had met at Jeddah in 1769, and enclosed a copy 
of a firman issued by Mohammed Abou Dahab guaranteeing pro¬ 
tection to English merchants. Other copies were sent to the Gov¬ 
ernors of Bengal and Bombay. Having thus succeeded, to all ap¬ 
pearances, in his favorite project, Bruce left the further conduct 
of affairs in the hands of the Venetian Consul, and proceeded 
homeward to enlist the interest of the English Government in the 
new trade. 

Bruce was less successful in England than he had been in Egypt. 
There he found Lord North’s Government not only altogether 
unappreciative of his patriotic endeavors, but openly hostile. The 
commerce with Egypt by way of Suez, it was maintained, would 
result in positive disadvantage to the East India Company by 
carrying the trade of India out of the bounds of the Company’s 
monopoly. But in addition to this, the trade would be dangerous, 
it was contended, because of the hostility of the Ottoman Porte to 
it. 31 Deeply wounded at the lack of appreciation in England for 
his unselfish and hazardous endeavors, Bruce retired from the 
scene, unaware of the real influence of his work. 

The response in India to the privileges he had been instru- 

80 Bruce, of. cit., IV, 718; J. Cliarles-Roux, of. cit., I, 94.-95; Murray, of. cit., 

PP. 229—230. 

31 Bruce, of. cit., IV, 730-731. 



10 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


mental in securing was immediate. Merchant vessels laden in 
Indian ports, as if confident of the favorable result of the treaty 
drawn up by the Governor-General, made their appearance in the 
Red Sea almost as soon as the agreement was completed, and were 
soon unloading at Suez. Packets and despatches, brought on 
nearly every vessel, were promptly transported from Suez to 
Cairo and thence to Alexandria by special messengers. They 
reached Europe in some of the many vessels annually attracted to 
Alexandria, and reached England by a route leading from Trieste 
to the Channel ports. 32 At first the new plan of communication, 
based on a coordination of trade and messenger service, gave great 
promise. During each of the three or four years following the 
Treaty of 1775, sailing vessels frequently arrived at Alexandria 
from England and at Suez from India at the same time. 33 The 
only difficulties in the way of these activities appeared to be the 
seasonable adverse winds of the Indian Ocean, the dangerous, un¬ 
charted shores of the Red Sea, and the great desert between Suez 
and Cairo. The political sky was serene. The strict injunction 
issued by the Porte in x 775 in contravention of this Christian in¬ 
vasion of the Red Sea, if known in India, was ignored while rela¬ 
tions with the Beys remained good, and there is good reason to 
believe that the British Ambassador at the Porte, John Murray, 
had even neglected to apprise his Government of such Turkish 
protests. 34 

It remained for George Baldwin, merchant and adventurer, to 
reap where his fellow countryman, Bruce, had sown. 36 This en¬ 
terprising individual had been engaged in mercantile operations 
in the Levant since 1760 and had become acquainted with the re¬ 
markable resources of Egypt and with the peculiar advantages to 
be derived from a well-conducted line of communications through 
that country. . Finding that there was not in Egypt at this period 
either an official or unofficial agent to care for English interests, 
Baldwin determined to assume charge of such matters himself, and 
during a brief visit to England he was able to secure official sanc¬ 
tion of his plans. 36 He first secured recognition from the Levant 
Company, whose monopoly in the Near East still survived under 
the paternal care of the British Government. Learning of this, 
the Directors of the East India Company authorized him to act 
as their agent for communications as well, agreeing to pay ex- 


82 Archives Affaires Etrangeres, correspondence consulate, cited in F. Charles- 
Roux, L'Angleterre, etc., p. 52. 

!* °t cit -> P- 6 > J- Charles-Roux, of. tit., I, mo-tor, 418. 

,! F. Charles-Roux, of. tit., pp. 51-52. 

Ibid., pp. 52-54. 

86 Baldwin, of . cit. } Preface. 



ENGLISH INTEREST IN EGYPT / u 

penses, a small salary, and a bonus on each packet of correspond¬ 
ence safely expedited through Egypt. This commission Bal<f«$fc 
gladly accepted, and entered upon his new duties late in the sum-" 
mer of 1775. 37 

The next two years were devoted quite largely to the problem 
of coordinating the sending of despatches from London and from 
the three Indian presidencies. A voyage from India to Suez was 
an exceedingly expensive, not to say hazardous, undertaking, and 
to realize the greatest degree of efficiency, a vessel bringing out 
despatches from India also had to carry papers of importance on 
the return journey. The working out of the scheme was greatly 
complicated by the fact that a safe and speedy voyage could be 
projected in either direction during only a few weeks of the year. 
Baldwin devoted much attention to matters of navigation in Ind¬ 
ian seas and in the Mediterranean, and presently drew up a plan 
which seemed to offer most practical results. Allowing about 
twenty-five days for the sending of packets from Cairo to Eng¬ 
land, it was found that a speedy vessel arriving from India at the 
beginning of the open season might safely await replies from Lon¬ 
don before leaving Suez on the return j ourney. This arrangement 
proved to be so effective that by the year 1777 the India authorities 
both in England and in India were relying on this route for their 
most important communications, and a packet marked “ received 
overland ” was a signal for instant attention. 38 

The new scheme was no sooner inaugurated than it was seriously 
threatened. Although the treaty between the Government of 
India and the Beys of Egypt was, strictly speaking, no violation 
of the Turkish Capitulations under which Englishmen had traded 
to the Levant for many generations, the Ottoman Porte looked 
with undisguised hostility on the trade to Suez, the benefits of 
which would redound to the semi-independent Beys rather than 
to the Porte and would tend to increase the Turkish administra¬ 
tive problems in Egypt. 39 Baldwin, assuming himself the credit 
for the opening of the traffic with Egypt, explained it thus: 

The Turk, who had hitherto been silent, began to com¬ 
plain ; the Daganier, or custom-master, wanted a participation 

37 I. O., Factory Records, Vol. 5, Correspondence of the East India House. 

38 I. 0 . Records, ut supra, Vol. 5, East India Correspondence. The t{ overland ” 
route had not at this time any particular reference to the use of any line from England 
across the continent to the Mediterranean as it had during part of the nineteenth cen¬ 
tury, although communications were frequently carried from Channel ports to Trieste 
or Marseilles, and vice versa. 

30 Ibid., u Translation of a Representation from the Ottoman Porte to His 
Britannick Majesty’s Ambassador. Received May 5, 1777 ”5 and Correspondence of 
the East India House. 



12 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

in the customs 5 the sheriff of Mecca began to complain that 
the port of Gedda would be abandoned, and the cause of re¬ 
ligion sustain an injury in its effects; the Directors of the East 
India Company complained that their trade would suffer; the 
Turkey Company cried out that they would be ruined. 

The Court of Directors of the East India Company had been 
pleased at first at the prospect of a new line of communication, 
but they soon discovered that this would prove to be a very ex¬ 
pensive matter unless developed in connection with the commer¬ 
cial opening of the Red Sea. Merchant vessels could carry mes¬ 
sengers and packets to or from India as well as the Company’s 
cruisers, and at no additional expense, while every voyage of an 
armed vessel with despatches alone cost the Company several 
thousand pounds sterling. But just as Hastings’ treaty of 1775 
succeeded in opening the way to Suez, the Company’s Directors 
came to the conclusion that the Indo-Egyptian trade, far from be¬ 
ing desirable, might easily become an unmixed evil. It occurred 
to the Directors that eastern goods ostensibly destined for con¬ 
sumption in Egypt might readily follow the new line of com¬ 
munications and find their way, possibly in the ships of the Levant 
Company, to European markets, and thus seriously compete with 
cargoes brought around by way of the Cape of Good Hope. So 
it was reluctantly decided that in the long run it would be better to 
forego the advantages of a regular line of communications via the 
Red Sea, if necessary, for the purpose of ending the Egyptian 
trade. They were, in consequence, quite willing to see the point 
of the Turkish Government when presently it was brought forci¬ 
bly to their attention. 41 

At the close of 1775, Ambassador John Murray, a strong pro¬ 
tagonist of the Egyptian trade and the route through Egypt, left 
Constantinople to return to London. He did not live to com¬ 
plete his journey; and his death at Venice prevented his making 
known to the English Government the antipathy with which the 
trade to Egypt was viewed by the Turks. 42 Before the arrival of 

40 Baldwin, of dt, } p. 7. 

41 I. O. Records, ut sufra^ VoL 5, Correspondence of the Bast India House. 

42 Inasmuch as Murray had never despatched to London the prohibitory injunc¬ 
tion issued by the Ottoman authorities some months earlier, and since the original of 
that document was not found in the British Embassy at Constantinople, it is supposed 
that he was bearing the document with him and that it was lost at the time of his 
death. — State Papers, Turkey, VoL 53, reports from Sir Robert Ainslie, 14 March, 
5 May, and 17 June, 17775 cited in Charles-Roux, of. cit. } p, 52. I have relied on 
Charles-Roux’s thorough study of the State Papers and their continuation in the For¬ 
eign Office Turkey Papers. My own original investigations of these activities have 
been made largely in the Factory Records of the India Office, most of which were 
unnumbered when I had access to them. 



ENGLISH INTEREST IN EGYPT 13 

his successor at Constantinople, the English charge d'affaires, 
Hayes, was compelled to report to his Government, while uphold¬ 
ing English rights under the Capitulations, that the Turks were in¬ 
sistent on the ending of the Suez trade. This report was the first 
intimation received by the London authorities of the feeling at 
Constantinople on the Indo-Egyptian trade. The Turkish re¬ 
quest was immediately acceded to, and positive orders were sent 
to India to restrain vessels bound for Suez. These instructions did 
not arrive in time to prevent various sailings during 1776, but 
these were in no way molested, in spite of the fact that the Porte 
had repeatedly enjoined the Pasha of Cairo from permitting more 
cargoes and passengers from landing. 43 

Baldwin meanwhile had done all in his power to promote both 
the trade and the communications. He had addressed notes on 
the manifold advantages of Egypt to the Indian Government, 44 
and he had begun to contemplate the improvement in his own posi¬ 
tion which would result from his being appointed British Consul 
in Egypt. But his protests and arguments against Turkish attitude 
and the'East India Company’s commercial policy were of little 
avail as compared with a series of incidents occurring in the Red 
Sea area at the height of the trade. Contrary to the impression 
Baldwin had been careful to give in all of his communications, 
political conditions in Egypt were never long stable. The year 
1776 produced new proofs of this. During the course of the 
year, Mohammed Abou Dahab died while on a campaign in Syria. 
In the ensuing struggle among the Beys for supremacy, the power 
of government was seized by three rival chiefs. In effect, the 
security which had marked the two previous regimes vanished and 
confusion everywhere prevailed. 45 

Upon the arrival of a new British Ambassador, Sir Robert 
Ainslie, at the Porte, he was immediately confronted with serious 
issues. He was particularly tried by the arrival at Suez almost 
simultaneously of five English merchant vessels, four from Ben¬ 
gal and one from Bombay. Being reproached by these arrivals, 
Ainslie tried dissimulation and feigned to believe that these 
could not be English vessels, but that they were perhaps inter¬ 
lopers— doubtless Turkish subjects. His evasions were with¬ 
out effect. He was presently confronted with definite evidence 

43 S. P., Turkey, Vol. 52, Hayes to the Foreign Office, 3 Jan., and 3 June, 1776. 
The Porte was never long unaware of English activities in Egypt, as the French were 
diligent in reporting every detail. 

44 « yj ew 0 f the advantages and the possibility of pursuing, by the navigation of 
the Red Sea to Suez, a commerce between India and Egypt ” (22 March, 1776).— 
Brit. Mus., Add. Mss., 29210, Fos. 422—424. Cited by Charles-Roux, p. 56. 

45 Charles-Roux, of. cit. } p. 57. 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


14 

concerning the ownership of the vessels, and at the same time 
was given a new and categorical note to be transmitted to his 
Government, demanding the cessation of all Christian navigation 
of the Red Sea above Jeddah. The note repeated that the Red 
Sea adjacent to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina was held 
sacred and might not be profaned by commercial activities, that 
the trade was contrary to usage, and, in a word, that all this was 
likely to endanger the good relations which had long existed be¬ 
tween the English and Ottoman Governments. 46 

The situation was complicated by the fact that the Beys of 
Egypt, making the most of what might prove to be a short period 
of power, levied duties of 20% on the goods landed, and the 
Turkish Government took peculiar delight in placing an addi¬ 
tional heavy duty on such of the goods as were forwarded from 
Egypt. 47 At this, Baldwin and the injured merchants loudly 
affirmed the right of trade under the treaty arrangement of 1775, 
and demanded compensation from the Porte for the recent out¬ 
rages. In such a dilemma, Ainslie took a sympathetic attitude 
toward the Turks on the principle involved, partly becausfc of per¬ 
sonal dislike to Baldwin, whom he suspected of advancing his own 
interests at the expense of the Crown and the East India Com¬ 
pany, and partly because of his belief that he understood the senti¬ 
ment both of the Home Government and the two trading com¬ 
panies concerned. His reports to the Foreign Office were so 
alarming that the East India Company was easily prevailed upon 
to supplement the orders already sent out to India by more drastic 
ones still. On July 4, 1777, the Court of Directors issued a posi¬ 
tive prohibition to any British or Company’s vessel to trade to any 
Red Sea ports except Jeddah and Mocha. Copies of this order 
were at once sent to the Governor-General in Bengal and to Bald¬ 
win at Cairo, with instructions to publish them immediately. 48 

Only on July 11 did Ainslie receive the instructions from home 
he had awaited for several months. These informed him of the 
steps which had been taken to terminate the Red Sea navigation, 
but requested him to arrange, if possible, for the safety of such 
vessels as might arrive at Suez before the publication of the notices 
in the Indian Presidencies. A further and much more significant 
request was also included. Ainslie was authorized to ask that the 
East India Company be permitted to send despatches by way of 
Suez on condition that the packet boats carry no merchandise. 


I. O. Records, ut sufra, Vol. 5, East India Correspondence. 

. 47 Ains J ie was vef y fea rf u l lest the Turks retaliate by limiting the trading 
privileges of the Levant Company. 

48 I. O. Records, ut sufra, Vol. 5, Correspondence of the East India House. 



ENGLISH INTEREST IN EGYPT 15 

Before the Turkish Government returned a formal reply to 
these requests, a partial answer had been given by the outcome of 
what served as a test case. In January, 1777, a sloop-of-war, the 
Swallow, Capt. Panton, arrived at Suez, having been sent on spe¬ 
cial mission by the Governor-General, Warren Hastings, with 
despatches of unusual gravity. At the request of Baldwin, the 
de facto Pasha of Cairo, Ibrahim Bey, consented to permit the 
landing of three special messengers with their effects. Upon 
their arrival at Cairo, the Pasha, wishing to curry favor with 
the Porte, violated the safe conduct he had given and had the 
baggage of the messengers searched. After much difficulty the 
three men managed to secure their release and to proceed to 
Alexandria, where they were a second time arrested and 
their baggage was rifled. Finally the three were allowed to 
depart for Europe, but without some of their more important 
despatches. 49 

Baldwin complained bitterly to Ainslie concerning this incident 
and begged him to secure from the Porte a commandement which 
would prevent the repetition of such an outrage. And at the same 
time he sought to convince the Ambassador, and through him the 
Porte, that the Suez route was essential to Turkish welfare, if not 
to that of the East India Company. 50 Although Ainslie was much 
less favorably disposed toward the Suez route of trade and com¬ 
munications than his predecessor Murray, he felt it his duty to 
maintain English prestige, even in Egypt. He therefore made 
representations to the Ottoman Government as to the treatment 
accorded the three official messengers brought out on the Swallow, 
and craved the indulgence of the Porte for such vessels as might 
arrive at Suez before the notice of the termination of Red Sea 
navigation had been published in India, but he was unable to secure 
any satisfaction in return. In replying to Baldwin, therefore, he 
could only reiterate the prohibition of the Ottoman Government 
of the navigation of the Red Sea above Jeddah. 51 

Late in the summer of 1777, Baldwin received a packet of de¬ 
spatches from the Directors of the East India Company with in¬ 
structions to have them carried to India by the sloop Swallow. 
This vessel, however, having remained in the Suez roadstead for 
a considerable time, had already sailed on her return voyage. As 
the London despatches were described as being of the greatest im¬ 
portance, Baldwin, anxious to prove the utility of the Suez route, 
considered himself justified in hiring a native vessel to carry them 

40 Eyles Irwin, A Series of Adventures in the Course of a Voyage up the Red Sea 
(Dublin, 1780), pp. 554 iff. 

60 S. P., Turkey, Vol. 53, Baldwin to Sir R. Ainslie, 22 Jan., 1777. 

91 Ibid. 



16 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

to India before the commencement of the southwest monsoon. 
It is true that his zeal for the Red Sea route may have been 
stimulated on this occasion by commissions he had received from 
England to forward private messages. But when it came to the 
ears of the Directors that a despatch vessel had been chartered at 
their expense, and had carried private mails as well, their indigna¬ 
tion knew no bounds. Baldwin was accused of having violated 
the confidence of his employers. They would not pay the “ ex¬ 
travagant sum ” of £4500 for the chartered vessel, and insisted 
that all expenses of the voyage must be paid by those who had sent 
the private despatches. For some time it appeared probable that 
Baldwin’s position as agent would be vacated. It was at last con¬ 
firmed, but with plenty of admonition as to his future con¬ 
duct. 53 This incident, coming at a time when the Red Sea passage 
was acquiring a certain notoriety, conspired to discredit it further 
in the eyes of the British Cabinet. 

The Turkish Government had more reason for attempting to 
stop the use of the Red Sea by “ Frank ” vessels than religious 
prejudice or the wish to deprive the rebellious Beys of Egypt of a 
source of income. It was feared that the commercial opening of 
the Red Sea might wean away from the old trade route, which 
utilized the Persian Gulf and Mesopotamia, such commerce as 
still reached Levantine ports. It was chiefly by this route that 
Constantinople itself was supplied with eastern goods. But more 
than that, Turkish suspicions of English motives in developing a 
route through Egypt caused no little anxiety. The sight of Eng¬ 
lish and Indian official messengers hastening through Egypt with 
secret despatches, the frequent arrival at Suez of vessels of war, 
the indiscreet remarks of George Baldwin, the curiosity of English 
explorers in Egypt (who knew that they were not spies?), all con¬ 
spired to breed a feeling of alarm. 54 This was augmented not a 
little by the similar suspicions of the French, who easily persuaded 
themselves that British designs included the actual conquest of 
Egypt at the first favorable moment. 55 The fact that these sus- 

52 I. O. Records, ut supra, VoL 5$ Letter from the East India House to George 
Baldwin, 1 Apr., 1777. Baldwin had been instructed to send the despatches back to 
Malta if the Swallow had sailed. 

63 I. O. Records, ut supra , Correspondence of the East India House. 

54 From the time of Bruce, Englishmen whose purposes were not evident fre¬ 
quently crossed Egypt. Many of them, instead of crossing the desert from Cairo to 
Suez, chose to follow the Nile into Upper Egypt and to take ship from Cosseir or Tor. 
In this way they avoided a very unpleasant desert trip and at the same time, if they 
were not in haste, they gained a view of the monuments of ancient Egypt. Both 
the Turks and the Egyptians completely failed to understand these tourists and sus¬ 
pected them of having overt intentions. 

55 Arch. Aff. Strang., De Trouy (French Vice-Consul at Cairo) to his Govern- 



ENGLISH INTEREST IN EGYPT 17 

picions were without foundation did not lessen the attempts made 
to exclude the English from Egypt altogether. 50 

French and English objectives in the eastern Mediterranean 
were far from being the same, although each suspected the other 
of having identical designs. The official correspondence of the 
time does not indicate that either the British Government, the 
Levant'Company, or the East India Company had the slightest 
thought of undertaking the conquest of Egypt, however simple 
an undertaking that might prove to be. At the same time, 
both Ainslie and Baldwin believed that they had good evidence 
of French plans for securing for themselves the right of navi¬ 
gating the Red Sea and unloading cargoes in Egypt, which was 
in fact equally unfounded. What these diplomatic agents failed 
to uncover were the real designs of France, which looked toward 
the French conquest of Egypt as a means of competing with Brit¬ 
ain on more nearly equal terms in India and elsewhere in the East. 
Thus, Ainslie reported to his home government in September, 
1777, that a certain Baron de Tott, Inspector General of the 
French commercial ports in the Levant, was visiting Cairo in the 
hope of signing a commercial treaty with the Beys. 57 De Tott’s 
mission, however, was much more sinister: it was nothing less than 
to study and report on the means of effecting a French conquest 
of Egypt, of opening a French route to India through Egypt, and 
even of reopening the ancient canal between the Nile and the Red 
Sea for that purpose. 58 It was only incidental that the French 
did infrequently make use of the Suez route for much the same 
purpose as the English East India Company, in transmitting im¬ 
portant despatches or in sending out reinforcements of officers 
to India. 59 

In pursuance of instructions from England and at the insistence 
of Baldwin, Ainslie presented to the Porte in August, x 777, a note 
asking that English vessels coming to Suez in ignorance of in¬ 
structions forbidding the traffic be permitted to land their cargoes, 
and that the use of the Suez route for the transmission of de¬ 
spatches be authorized. No reply was received to this communica¬ 
tion. Conferences with Turkish Ministers also were without 
avail. Finally, in November, he received a very unsatisfactory 


ment, 8 June, 1777; and Mure (French Consul General at Alexandria), 17 June, 
1777; cited by Charles-Roux, of. cit., pp. 87-89. 

66 I. O. Records, ut sufra, Correspondence of the East India House. 

57 S. P., Turkey, Vol. 53, Ainslie, 17 Sept., 1777. 

53 Baron de Tott, Memoires sur les 'Cures et les Tartares (Paris, 1784), IV, 725 
cited by Charles-Roux, p. 94. 

09 Charles-Roux, of. cit., pp. 94-95. 



18 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

reply. On the question of English vessels coming to Suez on 
any errand whatsoever, the Turks were adamant: Jeddah w r as to 
be the limit of navigation. Messages might be forwarded in 
native boats from Jeddah to Cairo, whence English agents could 
take charge of them. It was only later still, after Ainslie had 
spoken of the possibility of English vessels bombarding Suez, 
that he was able to secure an extension of the Egyptian ttade to 
the end of the summer of 1778. 60 

The English trade with Egypt meanwhile showed no signs of 
diminution. In the spring of 1778 thirteen vessels arrived at 
Suez flying the British flag. Being angrily confronted w r ith this 
by the Reis Effendi, Ainslie felt it wise to disavow a part of the 
report: he insisted therefore that only eight vessels had arrived 
flying the English flag, and that these were operated by an inter¬ 
national group of irresponsible adventurers. 61 

This scarcely lessened the wrath of the Turks, and as hostilities 
were on the point of breaking out between England and France, 
Ainslie was hard put to it to save the right of the transmission of 
British despatches through Egypt in such an emergency. He 
promised that such an event would never occur again, but relations 
with the Porte remained bad, and no support was offered by Lord 
Weymouth at the Foreign Office. 62 

In the meantime, the Suez or “ overland ” route had been put 
to very practical use. In April, 1778, Ainslie apprised Baldwin 
of the alliance of France with the revolted American colonies, 
and asked that the news be sent to India as quickly as possible. 
Baldwin welcomed the opportunity to prove one of his conten¬ 
tions, and sent word to all of the presidencies with such effect 
that the capture pf Pondicherry was effected at an early date and 
French activities in India paralyzed. One of these despatches 
had consumed but 68 days from London to Madras. 63 The 
Turkish Government, however, showed as much aversion from 
the arrival at Suez of naval vessels in the capacity of packets as 
from English mercantile sailings. Ainslie was thus reduced to the 
necessity of feigning to believe that the reports of English sailings 
were all wrong: he would investigate. But a new difficulty was 

80 I. O. Records, ut sufra, Vol. 5, No. 221, “ Translation of the Ottoman Porte’s 
Answer to His Excellency’s Memorial, dated the 26th August, 1777 ”• S. P„ Turkey, 
vol. 53, Ainslie, iS Nov., 3 and 17 Bee., 1777. 

61 Ibid., Vol. 54, Report by Ainslie, 3 Aug 1 ., 1778. 

62 I. O. Records, ut sufra, Vol. 5, No. 243. 

63 Baldwin, of. ch., pp. 7, 22. « I had the satisfaction,” Baldwin states, « to con¬ 

vey the first advices of the war in 1778 to the East Indies} by means of which they 
were enabled, to the astonishment of all England, when the news arrived, to expel the 
French from India before succours could reach them, and add their possessions to our 
own.” r 



ENGLISH INTEREST IN EGYPT 19 

suddenly added to the others: George Baldwin arrived at Con¬ 
stantinople. 

For a considerable, time Baldwin had been obsessed with the 
idea that since he was performing all the functions of a consul, 
that title should be conferred upon him. The consular office once 
maintained in Egypt by the English Government had terminated 
when the English trade had deserted that country for other 
regions. Since that time, under the authorization of the British 
Embassy at Constantinople, English mercantile interests in Egypt 
were in the hands of the chief custom house officer at Cairo, a 
native. Since it was the function of the Levant Company to set 
up consular establishments in the region covered by its monopoly, 
Baldwin had applied to it first in 17'76 for the reestablishment 
of the office at Cairo. The Company refused to take such action 
in view of the political situation in that country. 64 Baldwin there¬ 
upon approached Ainslie, asking that the functions exercised by 
the customs officer be conferred upon him. This Ainslie professed 
not to have within his power. Baldwin still did not despair. At 
the end of 1777, he reopened the issue, maintaining that he could 
not discharge his functions as English agent under the circum¬ 
stances. On this occasion, as before, he made little headway. 
The Levant Company was little interested in Egypt, and Ainslie 
would not act without instructions from the Levant Company. 
Baldwin was, however, granted the right of acting as consul with¬ 
out possessing the title. 65 It was to secure documentary confirma¬ 
tion of his title and the right of English vessels to trade with 
Egypt through the Red Sea that he went to Constantinople at 
the end of 1778. 

Baldwin’s visit bore little fruit. His attempts to bribe Ainslie 
into acquiescence with his plans added to the suspicion with which 
he was already regarded by the incorruptible Ambassador. He 
was able to secure some documentary confirmation of the power 
and position he claimed in Egypt — a commandement making him 
protector of all English interests in Egypt, a letter naming him 
vakeel, or lieutenant, of the Ambassador with all the rights and 
emoluments of consul, and another letter practically deposing the 
chief customer at Cairo from his pretended position. 86 Baldwin 
made much less headway in attempting to convert Ainslie to the 
right and need of the Red Sea traffic. The Ambassador, whose 
understanding of the situation existing in various parts of the 

64 I. O. Records, ut sufra ) Vol. 5, Correspondence of the East India House. 

65 Charles-Roux, of. ch, } pp. 103-111. 

66 S. P., Turkey, Vol. 54, Ainslie, 17 Dec., 1778; Vol. 55, 4 and 24 Jan., 25 and 
26 Feb., 1779. 



20 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

Ottoman Empire was by no means profound, refused to alter his 
attitude of agreement with Turkish prohibitions of the Suez trade, 
and Baldwin was warned that such injunctions must be enforced. 

The Porte again took occasion, before Baldwin’s departure for 
Egypt, to issue to Ainslie another interdict in the form of a 
hatticherif bearing on the navigation of the Red Sea by Christian 
vessels. 67 In return, Ainslie presented an additional memoir to 
the Porte, asking for the admission to the waters of Suez of any 
Government or East India Company’s vessel bearing despatches 
but no merchantable wares. This was returned to him with the 
statement that the prohibition which had frequently been issued 
was final and was not a subject to be argued; the transit of de¬ 
spatches through Egypt was inadmissible except under the con¬ 
ditions already proposed. Ainslie felt obliged to indicate his 
acceptance of this fiat, first because he was orally given to under¬ 
stand that the transit of despatches in the usual manner would 
be tolerated until the end of the following summer, and in the 
second place, he was doubtful of receiving support from Baldwin 
on the basis of such concessions as he might obtain by further 
insistence. With renewed instructions as to the necessity of 
observing these arrangements, and with power to appoint agents 
in Egypt to assist in enforcing the regulations, Baldwin returned 
to Egypt, outwardly obedient, but secretly unrepentant. Pie still 
believed in the Suez trade. 

Even during the return voyage to Egypt from Constantinople, 
Baldwin evolved a scheme for carrying out his favorite idea. It 
occurred to him that some Indian merchandise might safely be 
unloaded at Suez along with Indian despatches, in case the agent 
at Cairo, that is, himself, assumed responsibility for the payment 
of a Turkish duty on such goods, and strictly prevented the em¬ 
barkation at Suez of any goods bound for India. This, he be¬ 
lieved, would be to the advantage of every one. He was inclined 
to attach little weight to Ainslie’s instructions to carry out the 
recent injunctions carefully in order to give the Turks no ground 
for making concessions to the French."* 

The Ottoman authorities, however, soon put themselves at 
fault. In August, 1779, two English packets arrived at Suez, and 
two official messengers, Captain Scott and Lieutenant Mills, with 
their despatches, were landed. These were suffered to pass 
through Egypt to Alexandria, but there they were arrested and 
held. Baldwin instantly sent to Constantinople to obtain redress, 

67 Translations of this document are to be found in De Testa, of, cit., J. Charles- 
Roux, of. cit.) and Baldwin, Political Recollections . 

68 P*> Turkey, Vol. 55, Letter from the Foreign Office, 10 March, 1779. 



ENGLISH INTEREST IN EGYPT 


2.1 


which in time was forthcoming, although he was severely censured 
for having permitted articles of trade to be landed under cover of 
the transit of despatches. On his part, Ainslie proposed to the 
Turkish Government that only armed vessels of the East India 
Company be permitted to bring despatches to Suez, and that these 
be empowered to seize vessels trading in those parts. The 
Turkish reply was a repetition of former refusals to tolerate 
either trade or communication in Christian vessels. At that point 
the matter rested, Ainslie consoling himself with the belief that 
if English vessels might no longer reach Suez safely, at any rate 
French plans for developing a route through Egypt had been 
forestalled. 69 

As a kind of substitute for the Red Sea route, Ainslie sug¬ 
gested to the Foreign Office the use of another short cut to India 
for the sending of despatches — one which was destined to be 
highly celebrated in the next century as the “ alternative route.” 
To prove the merits of this line, he was able to secure Turkish 
consent for the despatch of two English officers and some official 
papers Horn Aleppo through Mesopotamia to Basrah and thence 
to Bombay. This route, he suggested, might be found preferable 
in many respects to that through Egypt. 70 It did not develop, 
however. In subsequent years it was employed on occasions, not¬ 
ably during the French occupation of Egypt from 1798 to 1801. 
But the natural difficulties of this route, coupled with the dangers 
from nomadic Arabs, who had little regard for a Turkish safe 
conduct, prevented it from being much employed or even con¬ 
sidered as a regular route of communication during these years. 

By the opening of the year 1779, it was becoming apparent that 
the Suez route would soon, to all intents and purposes, be closed. 
To the failure to secure compensation for the injuries inflicted 
upon the passengers of the Swallow in 1777' and the repeated 
injunctions of the Porte in 1778 was added the arbitrary arrest 
of two English officers on mission in 1779. 71 This was sufficient 
evidence that the Porte was in earnest in terminating the Suez 
traffic and that, even in the confused state of Egypt, it could still 
exact a measure of obedience. The risks, both of trade and of 
communication, were mounting rapidly. 

09 Charles-Roux (pp. 127-128) points out that the idea of French plans for a 
route of communications was an illusion. French vessels did come to Suez on occa¬ 
sion at this period, but whether primarily to engage in trade or to maintain a partial 
communication between France and French ports in India is not altogether clear. 

70 I. O. Records, ut supra, Vol. 5, No. 256, Ainslie to Viscount Weymouth, 17 
Sept., 17795 J. Charles-Roux, op. cit., I, 104:$. 

71 S. P., Turkey, Vol., 55, Baldwin, 30 April, x779 5 Firman de la Sublime Porte, 
in J. Charles-Roux, op. cit., I, Annexe No. 5, 419-420. 



22 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

The climax of the contest was reached in a series of unhappy 
events which occurred during 1779 * April, two English ves- 
sels arrived at Suez bearing despatches and mei chandise. The 
despatches passed without difficulty., and the captains of the trad- 
ing vessels, warned by Baldwin of the prohibition against tiade, 
were not molested in disposing of their goods disci ettly and 
“privately.” 72 In this Baldwin gave material assistance. On 
May 24 two vessels showing the Danish flag, but under the 
direction of an Englishman, George Moore, arrived at Suez. 
Moore, who brought a letter of recommendation from the Gov¬ 
ernor-General of Bengal, addressed himself to the Bey of Can o. 
His supercargo, a German named Van der Velden, also bearing 
a letter from the Governor-General, approached Baldwin, for 
assistance. Baldwin took no active part at first. Having received 
from the Bey permission to discharge their merchandise, the ships 
were unloaded, and Moore, taking the portion which belonged 
to him, went first to Cairo, where he had no difficulty in disposing 
of his goods at considerable profit. 

The other traders, the German, two Frenchmen, Saint-Germain 
and his brother, four Englishmen, O’Donnell, Jenkins, Barring¬ 
ton and Waugh, formed a caravan for conveying their goods to 
Cairo a few weeks later. They anticipated no danger, for not 
only did they have a safe conduct, but even the camels had been 
supplied by the Bey. In consequence, they travelled unprepared 
and unarmed. At a little distance from Suez they were suddenly 
set upon by a party of Bedouins, who made short work of pillaging 
the entire caravan, which was valued at £37,500, taking even the 
clothing of the merchants and leaving them stranded in the 
desert. O’Donnell returned to Suez. The others, believing they 
could reach Cairo, proceeded. They soon lost their way, however, 
and through hunger, thirst, fatigue and sun stroke, all except one 
of the party died. He, Saint-Germain, after unbelievable tor¬ 
tures, was succored by a fellah , and presently rescued by a French 
merchant of Cairo. 

O’Donnell meanwhile had reached Cairo from Suez, and with 
the assistance of Baldwin, who, it later appeared, had invested 
heavily in this particular enterprise, obtained from the Bey an 
offer of assistance in recovering the stolen goods. By a clever 
stroke, the Bey, who supplied an expeditionary force of 200 
soldiers, seized the two ships in the Suez roadstead and seques¬ 
tered them. With all the merchandise in his possession, he threw 
off his mask, imprisoned Moore, and held Baldwin and O’Donnell 
as prisoners on parole. At this moment five Englishmen bearing 

72 S. P.j Turkey, Vol. 55, Baldwin to Ainslie, 30 July, 1779. 



ENGLISH INTEREST IN EGYPT 


23 


despatches arrived at Alexandria from England en route to India 
— those who had come out on the vessels which had reached 
Suez in April. These men were temporarily held, but were 
presently released on the promise that they would take no action. 

The Bey promptly reported the affair to the Porte, as did 
Baldwin and O’Donnell to Sir Robert Ainslie. 73 The episode 
made quite a stir, not only at Constantinople, but at the courts of 
western Europe. Various attitudes were taken. The prevalent 
opinion was that in violating a well-known prohibition, the mer¬ 
chants would be unable to recover their losses. The Porte did 
not conceal its joy at the action of the Bey, and confirmed him 
in his position forthwith. 74 Ainslie, although wholly out of 
sympathy with the enterprise, still appealed to the Porte to secure 
the release of those held by the Bey, and this was accorded. 
Before instructions to this effect reached Egypt, the Bey, antici¬ 
pating the attitude which would be taken by the Porte and the 
various European powers, had released all except Baldwin and 
another Englishman, Skiddy, one of the agents of the commercial 
expedition, who were held as security against any reprisals which 
might be taken. 75 

Before action could be taken for the release of Baldwin and 
his companion, the former “ jumped ” his parole, and escaped 
from Alexandria on a French vessel, deserting all of his property 
in Egypt and leaving Skiddy to follow suit as he might. 78 Land¬ 
ing first at Smyrna, Baldwin made his way to Constantinople, 
where he spent the next several months in assessing blame for all 
those whom he considered in any way connected with the late 
tragedy. He first vented his wrath on the prominent Venetian 
merchant in Egypt, Carlo Rosetti, whom he thought responsible 
for the whole plan of plundering the caravan, in collusion, per¬ 
haps, with the chief customs officer, Antoun Cassis, whose func¬ 
tions as official agent for England Baldwin had recently been able 
to terminate. 77 

At Constantinople Baldwin devoted his time chiefly to attempts 
to justify his conduct in Egypt and to bringing charges against 
Ainslie, whom he considered an unpatriotic Turcophile. Al¬ 
though Baldwin was able to rally to his cause some influential 
persons both in Turkey and in England, he was unable to make 

73 I. O. Records, ut sufra , Vol. 5, No. 253, Letter from John O’Donnell to Sir 
Robert Ainslie, Cairo, 5 Aug., 1779. 

74 S. P., Turkey, Vol. 55, Ainslie, 18 Oct., 1779. 

75 Ibid., Baldwin, 31 Aug., 1779. 

76 I. O. Records, ut $uj>ra 3 Vol. 5, Nos. 253 et seq. 

77 S. P., Turkey, Vol. 55, Baldwin, 7 Dec., 1779. F. Charles-Roux considers the 
case against Rosetti largely or entirely unfounded. 



24 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

serious headway in accomplishing his dearest wish, which was to 
secure Ainslie’s recall. In the spring of 1780, almost a year 
after the attack on the caravan near Suez, Baldwin .decided to 
carry his case to England in person, where he hoped still to. enlist 
influence in favor of opening the Suez route and to clcai himself 
of all charges of disobedience. 78 Within the following twelve- 
month the British Foreign Office was able to survey all of the 
evidence bearing on the events of J 779 j an< ^ Ainslie was found 
guiltless of any lapse of duty. 

The incidents of 1779 could not take effect instantly. Before 
the news had reached England and India by the slow means of 
transit then in use, still other vessels, came to Egypt. 70 The ^pas¬ 
sengers on some of these, by employing the good offices of Cai lo 
Rosetti escaped trouble. But in the summer of 1780, two English 
vessels, a packet and a frigate, arrived at Cosseir, one of the doors 
to Egypt. Five Englishmen were landed. By satisfying the 
greed of a local chief with a payment of about £35, they were 
permitted to proceed to Cairo. There four of them were tem¬ 
porarily imprisoned, then released on the promise to return to 
their vessels. The fifth, named Wooley, was suffered to take 
ship for Constantinople with his despatches, perhaps as a means 
of shifting part of the responsibility to the Turkish authorities. 
At Constantinople he was detained and some of his despatches 
were opened, in which it appeared that the English authorities in 
India still hoped to carry on trade relations with the Beys of 
Egypt under the treaty of 1775. It was with considerable diffi¬ 
culty that Ainslie succeeded in liberating his countryman and in 
sending him on to England. 80 

Ainslie was much perturbed over this incident, but hard on its 
heels followed more trouble in Egypt to complete the breach 
opened by the plunder of the caravan in the preceding year. 
While waiting at Cosseir, the sailors of the English frigate above 

78 While participation in the trade from India was not open to Baldwin after his 
appointment as consul de facto in Egypt, first because of the Turkish prohibition on 
Christian trade and second because of the nature of his duties, Baldwin’s situation 
deserves a bit of sympathy. In 1777, as related, he was held responsible by the East 
India Company for the payment of £4500 which he was unable to raise. At the end 
of 1778 the same Company’s Directors voted him a “ bonus” of £500 u for faithful 
services ” during that year, but at the same time they neglected to pay him his regular 
stipend. Baldwin may have been grasping, but there is every reason to believe that 
he was largely dependent on his own commercial enterprise for support. I cannot 
consider him quite the rogue that he appears to M. Francois Charles-Roux. 

79 Late in 1779 Ainslie had been given orally to understand that, for purposes 
of communication only, Englishmen proceeding through Egypt would not be molested 
during the year 1780. — I. O., Factory Records, ut sufra i Vol. 5, Nos. 263-265, 
Letters from Ainslie. 

80 F. O., Turkey, Vol. 1, Ainslie, 17 and 21 Aug., 1780. 



ENGLISH INTEREST IN EGYPT 


25 


mentioned during shore leave were drawn into an open clash with 
the Bedouins and five of the former were killed. The captain of 
the vessel, throwing caution to the wind, determined on a reprisal 
and began a bombardment of the town which lasted until nu¬ 
merous casualties had atoned for injuries received earlier. 

Ainslie made a strong representation to the Foreign Office on 
this head, begging that the repeated violations of the Turkish 
prohibition of the navigation to Egypt be ended. 81 Again orders 
were sent to the Governors of the Indian Presidencies reaffirming 
previous instructions. This, however, was unnecessary. The 
news of the attack on the caravan in 1779 and of the further 
trouble in 1780, added to the many evidences of the uncom¬ 
promising attitude of the Ottoman authorities, spread much more 
rapidly in India than did all of the injunctions of the Porte as 
advertised by the East India Company. Since the trade to Egypt 
had become more dangerous than profitable, and since communi¬ 
cations through Egypt had to rely on native boats and messengers 
between Jeddah and Suez, that route was largely given up. Even 
the action of the Beys in deposing the reigning Pasha Ismail, that 
they might again profit by the illegitimate trade with India, had 
no immediate effect. By the end of 1780 it was said that “ Eng¬ 
lish vessels no longer come to Suez.” 82 

81 Ibid., 20 March and 16 Sept, 1780. In spite of his vigorous protests at the 
violation of the Turkish injunctions by Englishmen, Ainslie commissioned one Richard 
Hughes to occupy a post in Cairo as agent of the East India Company with practically 
the powers enjoyed by Baldwin. If there was to be no trade with Egypt and no 
communication through that country, this office was superfluous. 

82 I. O. Records, ut supra, Vol. 5, No. 273. 



CHAPTER II 


INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION FOR THE OVERLAND ROUTE 

F OLLOWING the withdrawal of the English from active 
participation in the Indo-Egyptian trade and the con¬ 
temporaneous exit of George Baldwin as English agent 
in Egypt, such English travellers and messengers as still had 
courage to use the overland route found a friend and advocate 
in Carlo Rosetti, Baldwin’s bete noire. Rosetti, a “ true political 
chameleon,” appears at one time or another to have served all 
those Christian nations which had interests in Egypt, as well as 
various Mohammedan regimes. 1 This circumstance still enabled 
Englishmen to pass to or from India through Egypt, and so it 
tended to keep alive, through the publication of accounts by these 
travellers, some conception of the advantages to be gained by the 
development of a route through Eygpt for communications, if 
not for trade. 2 

In the meantime, others were appearing on the scene. Austria 
had long taken a healthy interest in the affairs of the Ottoman 
Empire. At this time, the Imperial Internuncio at Constanti¬ 
nople, who had made a fortune by privately engaging in the Indo- 
Egyptian trade, persuaded his government to establish an official 
post in Egypt. Through Austrian influence at the Porte, the 
chief of the customs at Alexandria, Antoun Cassis, was formally 
recognized as agent and representative of Austria and was loaded 
with honors and titles. The Venetian free lance, Rosetti, was 
drawn into the scheme as an Austrian agent. Likewise, the chief 
of customs at Cairo was placed under the protection of the Holy 
Roman Empire for the same purpose. These men were but the 
first of a considerable number of representatives it was planned 
to establish in Egypt for the development of trade. 8 

1 F. Charles-Roux, UAngleterre, Vlsthme cLe Suez, et V&gyfU au XVIII 6 Si%cle y 
pp. 153—154* 

2 See the accounts by Capper (1785), Savary (1786), Volney (1787), and 
Rooke (1788). 

3 F. O., Turkey, Vol. 3, 3 and 9 Aug., 1782. These Foreign Office papers, as 
in the previous chapter, are cited in Charles-Roux. 

26 



COMPETITION FOR THE OVERLAND ROUTE 27 

These arrangements were carried out with the knowledge and 
consent of the Porte. Ainslie was considerably upset and alarmed, 
not only at the apparent inconsistency of Turkish attitude, but 
also at the probable effect on the English East India trade. His 
complaints on the subject had little effect, however, now that 
the English Government had ceased to interest itself in the navi¬ 
gation of the Red Sea. Ainslie’s anxiety on account of Austrian 
schemes did not last long. Early in 1784 Ant'oun Cassis suddenly 
and mysteriously quitted Alexandria, ostensibly to go on a pil¬ 
grimage, and with his departure, Austrian preparations dwindled 
away.’ 1 

Although many Englishmen had already come to regret their 
withdrawal from Egypt in consequence of the events of 1779, it 
was not they who returned now that the field had been vacated 
by the Austrians. Since 1763 the French had been casting longing 
eyes at Egypt, less with the idea of developing trade and com¬ 
munications with the consent of the Porte or in collusion with 
the Beys, than with a view to the military occupation of the 
country and its use as a base of operations against the English in 
India. 4 5 No move of the English in Egypt long remained unno¬ 
ticed by the French Embassy at Constantinople or at the Foreign 
Office at Versailles. French agents in an almost constant stream 
passed to and fro through Egypt surveying its strength and re¬ 
sources and estimating its value as a French colony. 6 After 1778, 
when the French formed an alliance with the American colonies 
against Great Britain, their attempts to undermine British in¬ 
fluence all through the East were redoubled. 7 Some proposals 
were made for an alliance between France and Persia for the 
purpose of approaching India. Others looked toward a European 
coalition for seizing Egypt and Arabia and for cutting a canal 
through the Isthmus of Suez in order to take the English in the 
flank, a project actually attempted some twenty years later. 
The economic possibilities of Egypt were not overlooked. 8 The 
French Consul-General at Alexandria, Mure, considered it “ be¬ 
yond doubt that the commerce of India can be made to pass by 
way of Egypt as formerly, with a marked advantage over those 

4 F. O., Turkey, Vol. 5, Ainslie, 10 Feb., 17845 Charles-Roux, of. cit., pp. 

Is8 ~ 159 * . . *, 

5 F. Charles-Roux, £C La politique fran^aise en Egypte a la fin du dix-huitieme 

siecle,” in La Revue Historique, LXII (1906), and Les Origines de Vitxfedition 

i’igyfte, pp. 31-34- 

6 Charles-Roux, VAngleterre, Vlsthme de Suez, et VEgyfte, pp, 161-162. 

7 See above, p. 18. 

8 Masson, Histoire du Commerce frangais dans le Levant, p, 574, fassim; 
Charles-Roux, Les Origines de Vtxf edition d’igyfte, pp. 103-123. 



28 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

nations who continue to employ the way by the Cape of Good 
Hope.” 9 

The signing of the peace at Versailles, September 3, 1783, 
although scarcely altering the feeling of hostility between the 
two powers, tended to exert some influence on French projects in 
the eastern Mediterranean. 10 The French Ministry gave up plans 
for occupying Egypt in force in favor of developing a communi¬ 
cation with India by way of Suez, employing much the same 
means as the English had used in the early seventies — agreement 
with the Beys of Cairo. In 1783 and 1784 various French officers 
were commissioned to study the possibilities of executing this plan, 
and the French Ambassador at the Porte was even instructed to 
prepare a table comparing the advantages of the two natural 
routes to India, that by way of Basrah and that by way of Egypt 
and the Red Sea. 11 Nothing tangible was accomplished, however, 
until the arrival in Egypt late in 1784 of a French marine officer, 
the Chevalier de Truguet. 

His arrival at Alexandria marked the opening of a new phase 
of French diplomacy — one in which the principal endeavor was 
transferred from Constantinople, where it had been only partially 
successful, to Egypt, where the coast appeared to be clear for a 
monopoly of influence. Truguet was destined to succeed where 
some of his countrymen had failed because of several favorable 
circumstances. In the first place, he was the bearer of a note of 
friendship to the Beys of Egypt from a high functionary of 
Turkey, the Capitan Pasha, Grand Admiral of the Ottoman 
fleet. 12 In the second place, he had an invaluable ally in the 
French merchant, Charles Magallon, who had long been estab¬ 
lished in Egypt. Being on the point of retiring from active work, 
Magallon was requested by the French Ambassador at Constan¬ 
tinople to remain in Egypt in the capacity of consul for this par¬ 
ticular mission. However, all the twenty-two years of Magal- 
lon’s experience in Egypt might have availed little in negotiating 
a treaty with the Beys but for the fact that Mme. Magallon had 
once been of service to these chiefs in Upper Egypt and she had 
remained on intimate terms with the inmates of the harems of 
the chiefs at Cairo. 13 

Materially assisted by the merchant and his wife, Truguet was 

9 Charles-Roux, Let Origines, etc., p. 129, Archives Ministeres de la Guerre, 
1783. This memoir of Mure was one of those consulted by Bonaparte before his 
expedition to Egypt in 1798, 

10 Charles-Roux, VAngleterre, etc., p. 166. 

11 Masson, of. cit., p. 576. 

12 Charles-Roux, Les Origins*, etc., pp. 148 ff. 

13 Charles-Roux, VAngleterre, etc., p. 171. 



COMPETITION FOR THE OVERLAND ROUTE 29 

not long in negotiating a phenomenal treaty in which the French 
were accorded exclusive and exceedingly extensive privileges in 
Egypt and the Red Sea. Little was taken for granted in this 
document, which' was signed at Cairo on February 7, 1785, by 
Murat (or Murad) Bey for the chiefs of Egypt and the Chevalier 
de Truguet for France. 14 It guaranteed freedom of all kinds to 
French merchants, gave them exemption from all dues and taxes 
except the usual customs, which were greatly reduced, and stipu¬ 
lated the right of transmitting sealed messages through Egypt. 
One clause, especially, threatened the English East India Com¬ 
pany: the permission to ship goods in bond from India to France 
through Egypt. 1 ' 1 In order to give the document more of the 
appearance of regularity, it was provided that the treaty should 
continue in force pending the arrival of the hatticherif, or sign 
manual, from the Porte to legalize it. This, of course, was hardly 
to be anticipated as long as the English maintained a large 
measure of influence at Constantinople. But inasmuch as the 
treaty was concluded “ with the utmost secrecy,” it is evident that 
the absence of the sign manual was to be considered no obstacle 
as long as the Egyptian authorities wished the treaty to remain 
in force. Two subsidiary treaties were also signed at the same 
time, one between Truguet and the Chief of Customs at Cairo, 
Youssouf Cassab, pertaining to the duties to be levied on French 
goods arriving at Suez, and the other between Truguet and an 
Arab sheik arranging for a fixed charge for caravan camels. 16 
The French appeared to have obtained more than the English had 
formerly sought. 

There was no Englishman in Egypt at this time either to ob¬ 
struct the consummation of the treaty or to discover its secret 
provisions. Nevertheless, there were exceedingly efficient in¬ 
formers in Egypt in English employ, and the treaty had not long 
been completed before a copy of it was surreptitiously obtained 
and despatched with all haste to Ainslie at Constantinople. Sir 
Robert had already become deeply suspicious of French designs 
because of their unusual activity throughout the Levant during 

14 India Office, Factory Records, Egypt and Red Sea, VoL 5, ££ Convention be¬ 
tween the Court of France and the Government of Egypt, concluded with the latter 
on the Port of France by the Chevalier de Truguet” (also spelled Truquet, Fruquet, 
and Chetruguet). The first text obtained of this treaty was in Italian, prepared, 
apparently, by Ainslie’s private correspondent in Egypt, M. Brandi. See Baldwin, 
Political Recollections , pp. 23-245 J. Charles-Roux, Vlsthme et le Canal de Suez, 
I, 11 0-1 xx. The text of the document is given in the latter, pp. 421-422. 

15 There is little evidence that the French had carried any Asiatic goods across 
Egypt to Europe before this time. 

16 Baron de Testa, Recueil des Traites de la Porte Qttomane ) II, 80-835 J* 
Charles-Roux, of. cit I, Annexe No. 7, p. 423. 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


30 

the preceding months. 17 Confiding his suspicions to the Foreign 
Office, he was cautioned, in 1784, to secure for England such 
special privileges as might be granted to any other European 
power. French interest in the Black Sea and in the islands of the 
Archipelago threw him off the correct scent, however, and he 
failed to anticipate any French attempt to effect a liaison with the 
Beys. 18 It was only in the opening days of March, 178 5, that he 
received an inkling of the real situation, upon receiving word 
from his private correspondent in Alexandria that the Porte had 
given the French the right to trade with the port of Suez. 
Charged with this act of discrimination, members of the Turkish 
Ministry denied all knowledge of any such arrangement. Such 
disquieting news put Ainslie on his guard, however, and con¬ 
tributed largely to the undoing of the French plans in the end. 10 

The reports of these activities caused considerable uneasiness 
in London, both to Government and to East India Company, and 
pointed out the need for an English consul in Egypt. The 
Foreign Minister, the Marquis of Carmarthen, gave Ainslie 
special caution. 

Whatever part France may be inclined to take in the affairs 
of Turkey, it becomes an object of great importance to us to 
prevent, if possible, the attainment of her views in Egypt. 
The consequences they must invariably produce . . . upon 
our East India trade and establishments are too obvious to 
require the smallest explanations. You, Sir, have heard of 
her wish to induce the Porte to allow France the two ports 
of Suez and Gedda on the Red Sea; these two objects are of 
themselves sufficient to create alarm on our part, and I trust 
that the Ottoman Government may be induced to abstain 
from such a demand, when the pernicious effects to England 
are represented by you in their real and just points of 
view. . . 20 

Ainslie, however, while piqued and seriously concerned about 
the rumored French plans, was still inclined to underestimate 
the danger. He was repeatedly and categorically assured by the 

17 F. O., Turkey, vol. 5, Ainslie, 24 Jan. and 20 Feb., 17S4. 

18 Charles-Roux, L’Angleterre, etc., pp. 174-175. 

19 Ainslie evolved various theories to explain the mysterious schemes of the 
trench. At this time he concluded that the most plausible solution would be an 
attempt of the French to open commerce to Suez under an Indian flag — doubtless 
that of Tipoo, who had sent an embassy to Constantinople in 1784. 

00 1 O., Factory Records, ut sufrtt, Vol. 5, Extract of a Letter from the Marquis 
of Carmarthen to Sir Robert Ainslie, 19 May, 1785. See Charles-Roux, L’An- 
gleterre, etc., p. 180. 



COMPETITION FOR THE OVERLAND ROUTE 31 

Turkish Ministers that their attitude toward the opening of the 
Red Sea to Christian commerce had not altered in the least since 
1777, and that they had no knowledge of any plans to establish 
new lines of trade with Suez. These assurances quieted Ainslie’s 
worst fears, for he did not discover at any time that at the very 
moment he was being thus advised the French Ambassador at 
the Porte, Choiseul-Gouffier, was requesting Turkish sanction of 
the treaties negotiated by Truguet. 21 Even the reported arrival 
of a French corvette, the Auguste, from Pondicherry at Suez on 
April 24 bearing special messengers en route to Versailles, 22 
and the contemporaneous appearance of two French frigates at 
Basrah loaded with arms and ammunition, 23 created no great 
alarm. 

Late in the summer Ainslie received from his Alexandria cor¬ 
respondent, Brandi, copies of the documents negotiated with the 
Beys by Truguet several weeks before. Although with these the 
secret of the French was out, there seemed to be no new cause for 
anxiety. Brandi had suggested, in transmitting the papers, that 
probably any other country could secure such concessions just as 
easily, and it was with this same comment that Ainslie in leisurely 
fashion forwarded copies to the Foreign Office. 2 ' 1 Upon reflection, 
however, he considered it wise to take up the matter with the 
Porte. The effect of this immediately excited his apprehensions. 
The Reis Effendi displayed great alarm and passion upon being 
confronted with the documentary evidence of French conspiracies, 
disavowed the treaties in their entirety, and promised immediate 
steps to nullify the pact, though a close observer might have noted 
that his spleen was directed more against the irresponsible Beys 
than against the contents of the treaties. 25 

However, for other reasons the French treaty was destined to 
have no practical consequences. Before the Ottoman Government 
had devised any effective way of chastising their rebellious feuda¬ 
tories in Egypt, French plans for exploiting the Red Sea route 
for trade and communications had largely fallen to the ground. 
French merchants in India remembered too vividly the treachery 
of the Egyptians on various occasions to venture themselves or 
their goods in the Egyptian trade. Attempts made by merchants 
in France to form a trading company for the Egyptian trade were 

21 Charles-Roux, Les Origines, etc., pp. 151-153. 

22 Ibid., p. 153. 

23 I. O., Factory Records, ut supra, Vol. 5, Correspondence of the East India 
House. 

24 Ibid., “ Extracts from Sir Robert Ainslie relative to the Establishment of the 
French in Egypt.” 

25 Ibid., Ainslie to Lord Carmarthen, 10 and 25 Nov., 17S5. 



32 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

frustrated by the French East India Company which was just 
renewing its former chartered monopoly. In 1786 it began prep¬ 
arations for sending cargoes from Indian posts to Suez, but so 
slowly did these plans mature, that the first cargo arrived at Suez 
only in March, 1789 —full three years later. Meanwhile the 
situation in Egypt had undergone a change so complete that the 
treaties of 1785' had lost such efficacy as they might have pos¬ 
sessed at the outset. 20 

The English Foreign Office did not regard the news of the 
French treaty with the Beys with a great degree of equanimity. 
Recent conflicts in India had been too severely contested and 
French objectives in establishing themselves in Egypt were too 
potent to escape critical review in London. Already for some 
years the attitude of the Government and of the East India Com¬ 
pany toward the use of the route through Egypt had been under¬ 
going a great change. In 1773 Lord North had seen nothing in 
the recommendations of James Bruce worthy of the least con¬ 
sideration. No English official raised a protesting voice*when the 
Ottoman Government issued the firman of 1777 placing an 
interdict on the navigation of the Red Sea. But since the stoppage 
of trade and communication in 1779 the conviction had been 
growing that the withdrawal from Egypt had been a mistake. 
The practical convenience of sending and receiving important 
Indian despatches in one-half or one-third the usual time had 
left its impress during those few years when the transit through 
Egypt had been uninterrupted. In 1785 1 the Red Sea was no 
longer the wholly unknown body of water it had been fifteen 
years before. Not only had various travellers published de¬ 
scriptions of it in connection with their travels through Egypt, 
but such surveys as had been made had also found their way into 
print. 27 

The book of Col. James Capper, Observations on the Passage 
to India through Egypt and across the Great Desert , published in 
1784, contained strong arguments for the use of a route which 
had been responsible for English victories over the French in 
India, and which, had it still been in use when the Peace of Ver¬ 
sailles was concluded, would have saved the lives of eighty English 
officers and more than two thousand men who were killed in use- 

26 Charles-Roux, VAngleterre , etc., pp. 187-192. 

27 q Trotter, The Harbour and Road of Suez in the Red Sea (London, 1779) ; 
Lieut. Mascall, Plan of the Harbour and Road of Suez from a Survey of Mascalt } 
1777, with some additions by Lieut . Harvey (London, 1782) 5 W. Robinson, Suez 
Harbour Surveyed by C aft am W. Robinson (London, 1784) $ L. $, de la Rochette, 
The North West Branch of the Red Sea (London, 1785). 



COMPETITION FOR THE OVERLAND ROUTE 33 

less battles long after the war had been formally ended. 28 Col. 
Capper believed in the simultaneous employment of the two 
other routes to India which had been found practicable, that by 
way of Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf and that around the 
Cape of Good Hope, but, except during the prevalence of the 
southwest monsoon, he considered that by way of Egypt essential. 
Moreover, he gave one telling argument against the Turkish pro¬ 
hibition of the use of the Red Sea: if the Turks could grant to 
their natural enemies, the Russians, control of the Black Sea and 
the Dardanelles, how readily might they consent to grant to their 
friends the right of sending packet vessels to Suez! 29 

More powerful still were the arguments, supported by the 
strongest evidence, brought forward by George Baldwin. Since 
his return from Egypt by way of Constantinople in 1781 he had 
spent his time in vain endeavors to recover the property he had 
lost in Egypt and in writing memorials to the Directors of the 
East India Company, in which he attempted to explain and justify 
his past conduct. In 1783 his case was taken up by the Court and 
he was officially exonerated from the charges held against him, 
the most serious of which were connected with his private trading 
ventures and his unauthorized chartering of a vessel in 1777 at an 
exhorbitant price to carry despatches to India. 30 

With his past mistakes thus forgiven, Baldwin devoted himself 
to the securing of recognition for the route to which he was wholly 
committed. In 1784 he published a pamphlet entitled, The Com¬ 
munication with India by the Isthmus of Suez, vindicated from 
the Prejudices which have frevailed against it. . . 31 In this he 
showed that “ the feats of the East India Company respecting the 
influx of Indian manufactures by that route to Europe to their 
prejudice were not well founded; and that the alarm of the Grand 
Signior for the safety of his empire need not have been aroused 
by the arrival of six or eight loaded ships per year at the port of 
Suez.” 32 In a memoir to be presented to the India Board the 
following year, Baldwin showed the dangers which might arise 
from the establishment of France in Egypt. 

France, in possession of Egypt [he wrote], would possess 

the master-key to all the trading nations of the earth. En- 

28 2d ed. (London, 1784). 

29 James Capper, Observations on the Passage to India , Preface, pp. x—xvii. 

30 I. O., Factory Records, ut sufra y Vol. 5. Baldwin’s creditors apparently were 
never reimbursed for their losses. 

31 Contained in I. O. Factory Records, Vol. 5. 

32 In 1783 Baldwin estimated that the total volume of the goods exported by 
the English from India to Egypt between 1768 and 1782 amounted to £318,600. 



34 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

lightened as the times are, in the general arts of navigation 
and commerce, she might make it the azve o£ the eastern 
world, by the facility she would command of ti anspoi ting 
her forces thither, by surprise, in any number, and at any 
time; and England would hold her possessions in India at the 
mercy of France. 33 

These and many similar observations all tending to show that 
France would naturally aspire to control Egypt and that this 
would be a vital matter for Great Britain, exerted a deep influence 
on the India authorities. Baldwin was asked to prepare other 
statements showing how British interests might most efficaciously 
be revived in Egypt. In reply, he sketched his idea of a prac¬ 
ticable consular establishment, providing for a consul general at 
Cairo having power to name deputies or vice-consuls at Alexandria 
and Suez as the first step. He thought this might be financed in 
any one of three ways: by reviving the trade from India to Suez 
and levying a small duty on such goods to be applied to this pur¬ 
pose; by removing the Levant Company’s monopoly and'applying 
its annual Parliamentary grant toward the upkeep of the diplo¬ 
matic establishment; or by requiring the Levant Company to 
appropriate the necessary funds from its own income.' 1 ' 1 Also he 
prepared at some length a brochure entitled Observations on the 
Practicability and Utility of Establishing a Correspondence Over- 
Land to India by Way of Suez,™ in which he pointed out that 
“ Almost the only difficulty in establishing a correspondence over¬ 
land to India, by way of Suez, is in the navigation of the Red 
Sea. The regularity of the winds, which make a voyage safe and 
expeditious at one particular time of year, renders it dangerous, 
tedious, and almost impracticable at any other.” 

The decision of the British Government and the East India 
Company to reestablish a consular office in Egypt took shape, 
early in 1786, in the formal appointment to the new post of the 
only person sufficiently capable in every way of fulfilling the 
needs of the situation. Baldwin’s own memoirs were taken as 
the basis of the instructions issued to him. 30 As Consul, Baldwin 
was enjoined — 

33 Baldwin, Political Recollections Relative to Egypt, p. 79. 

^ I. O., Factory Records, ut supra, Vol. 5, Baldwin, on opening 1 the Red Sea 
Route, 27 Jan., 1785. 

35 I. 0 . Records, ut supra, No. 279. 

36 Ibid., Vol. 5, Dundas mss. Henry Dundas, Chairman of the Court of Directors, 
estimated the total cost of a xponthly communication between England and India 
at £3850, on the basis of information supplied by Baldwin. He thought messages 
could be transmitted in either direction within the space of 60 days. 



COMPETITION FOR THE OVERLAND ROUTE 35 

To protect His Majesty’s subjects in their Trade and 
lawful avocations . . . to endeavor to obtain from the Gov¬ 
ernment of Egypt by proper and discreet means, a secure 
and regular passage through their country for His Majesty’s 
subjects and dispatches — going and coming between Eng¬ 
land and the East Indies by the Red Sea ... to watch the 
motions of the French, and their particular designs . . . 
[and to] transmit to His Majesty’s ministers your discoveries 
and observations upon their proceedings, which may have 
a tendency to affect in any shape the interests of Great 
Britain ... to prevent as much as in your power lies, the 
transit of all British Subjects to and from India by the 
Isthmus of Suez, except only such as bear an authority from 
Government or East India Company for so doing, it being 
subject to create disturbances, and to embarrass the free com¬ 
munication intended to be obtained for the Public Services. 37 

The Court of Directors on their part made out a voluminous 
set of instructions, governing Baldwin’s conduct in every con¬ 
tingency, and including much solid advice. Recalling his former 
shortcomings it was specifically provided that on no account was 
he to engage in trade. And to this the Court signed themselves, 
“.Your loving friends.” 38 “The great end of Mr. Baldwin’s 
residence at Cairo,” ran a separate despatch to Sir Robert Ainslie, 
“ is the opening of a communication to India through Egypt.” 39 
In all of these instructions, it is to be noted, a clear distinction was 
made between purposes of communication and those of trans¬ 
portation. This continued until after the trading monopoly of 
the Company had been entirely removed and the eastern trade 
thrown open to the world in the early years of the next century. 

There was some question at first whether Baldwin should 
proceed to Egypt primarily in the capacity of British Consul Gen¬ 
eral or as Agent of the East India Company. If the latter, his 
salary and expenses would naturally be defrayed by the Company 
and his despatches would be directed to the Court of Directors 
rather than to the Foreign Office. After some delay, a joint 
arrangement was agreed upon whereby Baldwin’s activities were 
to conform to two sets of instructions, but his salary was to be 
paid by the Company. 40 He was to be sent out to Egypt accredited 

87 Ibid., “Instructions to George Baldwin as Consul to Egypt.” 

38 Ibid,, No. 1359. 

30 Ibid., “Heads of Instructions for Mr. Baldwin,” 19 May, 1786. 

40 Ibid., Dundas mss. The Levant Company had become practically a dead 
concern, subsisting largely on a Parliamentary grant. Baldwin apparently had no 
commission from this Company during his second official residence at Cairo* 



36 ' BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

to a Turkish possession, but it was made clear to him that the 
immediate aim of his work in Egypt was to be a new and separate 
treaty with the Beys, “ which will put His Majesty’s Government 
at least on an equal footing with . . . the French.” 41 In fact 
Baldwin’s salary of £500 per year with expenses was to continue 
only on condition that he negotiate this favorable treaty within 
a year after his arrival in Egypt. This, then, was the effect of the 
French treaty of February, 1785; the British were at last prepared 
to compromise their Turkish policy. The difficult feat was to be 
tried of riding two eastern horses at once — and animals very 
much averse from running in the same direction. 

Additional preparations were made at Constantinople for the 
success of his mission before Baldwin’s departure for Egypt. The 
purposes of the new establishment were pointed out to Ainslie, 
who had already strongly but ineffectually opposed the appoint¬ 
ment of Baldwin. 42 There stood in the way of the enterprise the 
Turkish firman , which commanded the entire cessation of Chris¬ 
tian navigation in the Red Sea. 43 The instructions sent to Ainslie 
requested him to make representations to the Porte on the basis 
of the privileges granted the English in the Capitulation of 1675, 
which provided, in part, 

That the said nations, and the English merchants, and all 
other nations and merchants that do, or shall arrive under 
the colors and protection of England with their ships . . . 
merchandize, effects [etc.], shall at all times sail securely in 
our seas, and go and come with all manner of safety and 
freedom to all parts within the limits of our Imperial 
Domain. . . That the said nation shall likewise freely go ‘ 
and come by land, within the limits of our Imperial Do¬ 
minions. . . All English ships, great and small, may at all 
times come and enter any port or harbor whatsoever of our 
Dominions, and set out from thence when they please. . , 44 

Such preparations for the return of the English to the eastern 
Mediterranean were well under way when Baldwin, armed with 
copious instructions, cautions, and advice, sailed on the Weymouth 
from Portsmouth, August 14, 1786, for Egypt. He arrived in 

41 I. O. Records, ut sufra , “ Heads of Instructions for Mr. Baldwin,” 19 May, 
1785. 

42 Charles-Roux, UAngleterre , etc., pp. 207—225. 

43 The instructions issued by the Foreign Office to Baldwin on May 19 suggested 
that, in view of the Capitulations and the French treaty of 1785, he might well 
ignore the prohibitory firman . 

** Quoted in I. 0 . Records, ut sufra, Vol. 5, in a paper entitled u The Com¬ 
munication with India by way of Suez” (1784), 



COMPETITION FOR THE OVERLAND ROUTE 37 

Cairo in December, and discovered immediately that the greater 
part of his preparations had been to no avail, for a Turkish army 
was then in Egypt in process of chastising the rebellious Beys, 
and the entire country was in the utmost confusion. It will be 
worth while to approach this circumstance from another point 
of view. 

It was little consolation to the Porte that the Beys of Egypt, 
who had scant regard for the authority of the Sultan, deposed 
each other in rapid succession. Each de facto regime quickly set 
about exploiting all possible sources of wealth while its authority 
lasted. Only the inertia characteristic of a government already 
entering upon a decline and the constant dread of Russian attacks 
prevented the Turks from taking summary vengeance upon their 
lawless Egyptian vassals. However, even Turkish patience was 
exhausted at last. Early in 1786 Murat Bey demanded of the 
European consuls in Egypt a large sum of money. In case of 
failure to comply with the demand, the two Franciscan Churches 
at Alexandria were to be plundered, an expedient suggested by 
the Russian Consul at Alexandria, Baron de Thonus. 45 In the 
face of this danger, the diplomatic corps of the western powers 
instantly appealed to their superiors at Constantinople to avert 
the danger. A joint representation was quickly made to the 
Porte by all the ambassadors of European powers at Constanti¬ 
nople except those representing Sweden and England. Finding 
the request for intervention coinciding with its own interests at 
this favorable moment, the Turkish Government determined to 
take summary and drastic action. The representatives of 
the powers were reassured this time less by specious promises 
than by preparations for a campaign of first magnitude. A 
large fleet was out in readiness to proceed to Egypt, and no less a 
personage than the Captain Pasha, Hassan, was placed in charge 
of it. 48 

Ainslie, although taking no part in the request for intervention 
in Egypt, rejoiced, nevertheless, at the growing prospect of de¬ 
stroying the effects of the French treaty of 1785 with the Beys. 4T 

4& I. O., Factory Records, Vol, 6, Ainslie, 24 Sept., 1787. Russian activities in 
Egypt had begun in 1783, when a Russian agent arrived in Egypt bringing power 
to negotiate a treaty with the Beys whereby Egypt was to be made independent of 
the Porte and the Russians were to have the right of placing garrisons at Alexandria, 
Rosetta and Damietta. Negotiations along this line were continued until Baron de 
Thonus, who had been established as Consul at Alexandria in 1785, provoked the 
attack on the churches which led to the expedition of the Capitan Pasha in 1786. 

46 Charles-Roux, op. cit., p. 195. 

47 Ainslie to the Foreign Office, n and 27 March, 1786, cited in Charles-Roux, 
op. tit., p. 196. 



38 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

A cardinal feature of English eastern policy — the restoration of 
Turkish power in Egypt with the consequent widening of English 
influence — was about to be accomplished. The event too well 
justified the expectation. Alexandria surrendered to the Turkish 
forces in July without opposition. Rosetta and Cairo likewise were 
taken. The forces of 'Murat and Ibrahim were easily defeated 
and scattered and they themselves driven to Upper Egypt. 48 
Their rival, Ismail, was installed in power by the Capitan Pasha. 
After some further resistance and temporary successes early in 
1787, Murat and Ibrahim were again defeated, but as the price 
of submission were allowed to retain two of the provinces of 
Upper Egypt. 49 But the news of such an outcome, which would 
have caused rej oicing in English circles at almost any other time, 
was received in London with gloom and apprehension. English 
policy in Egypt had been reversed at the worst possible moment, 
for Baldwin arrived just at the time when the Turks were over¬ 
whelming the Beys with whom he was instructed to negotiate an 
independent treaty. 

Baldwin had no difficulty in securing his recognition 'by virtue 
of the consular bar at which he bore, and after his reception at 
Alexandria he proceeded presently to Cairo. Here he appointed 
agents for the ports at Alexandria and Suez, secured an Arab 
writer and interpreter, and was soon ready to take advantage of 
that fortunate clause in his instructions which enabled him to 
negotiate with whatever authorities there might be in Egypt. 
There seemed to be but one course to pursue, now that the Turks 
were actually in possession of the country. This plan was to 
demand boldly the privileges which had once been granted the 
English in the Capitulations to trade in all Turkish ports. 50 On 
March 6, 1787, Baldwin was received in audience by the Capitan 
Pasha, and the case was stated frankly. 

The reputation of your armes and the promises of order 
which your government bring to the country have deter¬ 
mined the King of England ... to name me his consul 
general in Egypt, in order to restore with vigor the rights 
belonging to his subjects, conformably to his binding Capit¬ 
ulations with the Sublime Porte, particularly the right of 
navigating the Red Sea and of frequenting all the ports situ¬ 
ated on the shores of that sea. In consequence, I beg of Your 
Excellence to proclaim the wish of the Sublime Porte that 

to *"*’ ®- ecorc ^ s > ut sufra, Vol. 6, Ainslie, 25 Aug'., 1786; Baldwin, Jan. 1787. 

Charles-Roux, of. cit. } pp, 231—233, fassim. 

60 F. O., 24/1, Baldwin to Lord Carmarthen, 12 Jan., 1787. 



COMPETITION FOR THE OVERLAND ROUTE 39 

all functionaries of government and all subjects living under 
its law second and assist the British nation in the free exercise 
of the rights pertaining to it. 51 

To this Hassan replied ingeniously that such a matter would 
remain for the Porte to decide. However, not to cause delay, he 
would see that the English were not molested in the exercise of 
their rights while his authority remained in Egypt. 

A problem soon arose. A Christian (“ Frank ”) vessel was 
sighted in the Red Sea. Supposing that this would be an English 
vessel, Baldwin besought the Capitan Pasha to permit its recep¬ 
tion at Suez. This was not to Hassan’s taste, for he had been 
given copies of the prohibitory firman of 1779 before leaving 
Constantinople. Nevertheless, being a shrewd man, he ruled 
that whatever vessel arrived, it should receive no harm during 
his sway in Egypt. 52 The vessel proved to be the French frigate 
Venus bearing despatches from India. After some hesitation, 
Hassan authorized the landing of despatches and messengers, but 
insisted that the vessel sail shortly from Suez — an injunction 
carefully acted upon. Baldwin raised no obj ection to this ar¬ 
rangement, believing that such a precedent might be an advantage 
to his own countrymen. Indeed, he even took occasion to send 
despatches of his own to India by the return voyage of the vessel. 

The Capitan Pasha had indicated that only some evidence of 
consent on the part of the Porte was necessary to the free use of 
the route through Egypt. 53 The real responsibility for the re¬ 
opening of the route through Egypt, now that Egypt was largely 
under Turkish authority once more, devolved upon Ainslie. He 
was slow and unwilling to act, feeling the inconsistency of the 
new position he was expected to take with that he had so long 
maintained. News of the landing of the Venus and the passage 
through Egypt of her despatches and passengers, however, gave 
him ground for broaching the matter. Approaching the Reis 
Effendi with the statement that Great Britain would expect the 
same rights in the Red Sea as the French, he was curtly informed 
that no rights had been accorded the French, and that an in¬ 
vestigation would be made of the Venus affair. 54 Ainslee there- 

61 F. O., 24/1, Baldwin, n April, 1787. 

52 I. O. Records, ut supra, Vol. 6, Baldwin, 20 April, 1787, 

53 He seems to have been perfectly well aware, however, that the Porte was 
unlikely to grant this, but as his own stay in Egypt was likely to be brief, it shifted 
the responsibility to Constantinople and made it possible for him to accept sundry 
valuable presents from Baldwin with good grace. 

34 F. O., Turkey, Vol. 8, Ainslie, 9, 25 June, xo July, 1787j Charles-Roux, 
op. cit pp. 244-246. 



40 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


upon weakly refrained from following his instructions and 
demanding the right as based on the Capitulations. Time, he 
believed, would play into his hands, and he waited the issue of 
events in Egypt. 

Under the circumstances, it was natural that two men, never 
friendly, both kept completely in the dark by the intricacies of 
Turkish statesmen who were well aware of the purpose of Bald¬ 
win’s mission to Egypt, 55 should find the cause of failure in the 
other. Baldwin complained repeatedly that none of his letters 
to the Ambassador at the Porte was answered, and that Sir Robert 
had apparently done nothing toward securing that slight evidence 
of assent on the part of the Porte which would suffice for a 
guarantee of safety of navigation from the Capitan Pasha. 
Ainslie accused Baldwin of lack of caution in his negotiations and 
again suspected him of private mercantile operations. Both gave 
presents lavishly and remained optimistic as to the eventual suc¬ 
cess of the plan, particularly since the threatening moves of 
Russia would make the Turks desirous of English support. 58 

In London, meanwhile, preparations were being made for 
making use of the overland route with little regard to the pos¬ 
sibility of the failure of negotiations with Ottoman authorities. 
In spite of the Turkish expedition to Egypt, the tone of the 
despatches of both Ainslie and Baldwin, to cover up their inability 
to make real headway, had remained hopeful, and this doubtless 
influenced the home authorities to believe that no serious obstacles 
existed to the reopening of communication through Egypt. Their 
industry in making all arrangements for the official use of the 
line was stimulated, not only by the unsettled state of Europe, 
but by news from various quarters of the East. Lord William 
Murray, who had come back from India through Egypt early 
in 1787, brought word of the willingness of the native rulers of 
Mecca and Jeddah to assist in a regular navigation of the Red 
Sea by English ships. 57 Word also came that Basrah had been 
taken by an Arab sheik, who had arrested and imprisoned the 
Turkish authorities and so made himself master of all lower 
Mesopotamia. 58 This was looked upon as closing the route 
through Mesopotamia to emergency messages, making the route 
through Egypt more essential still. In addition, reports from 

55 Even the English Consul at Smyrna, Hayes, was able to keep in touch with 
developments in Egypt through the rumors reaching him from Turkish sources. 
F. O.j Vol. 8, Ainslie, 24 July, 1787. 

56 Charles-Roux, & A ngleterre y etc., pp. 251—252. 

57 F. O., 24/1, Baldwin, 2 July, 1787. 

68 Charles-Roux, of. cit. } p. 264. 



COMPETITION FOR THE OVERLAND ROUTE 41 

Egypt spoke of the arrival of another French vessel at Suez, a 
merchantman, which only awaited an opportunity to discharge 
a cargo for the Cairo market. 09 

The Foreign Office, in consequence, took up with the Post 
Office the matter of utilizing the Red Sea route for despatches, 
and through this department negotiated with the Board of 
Control and the East India Company. Plans prepared in May 
and June, 1787, looked toward one annual voyage in each direc¬ 
tion, beginning in 1788. Despatches bound for India would be 
sent from London in June, and those destined for England would 
leave India in December to take advantage of the most favorable 
conditions. Livorna was selected as the Mediterranean port for 
the communication with Egypt, the roads connecting that town 
with the Channel being suitable for the purpose. Rates of postage 
were agreed upon, and necessary Parliamentary legislation was 
outlined for the ensuing session. 60 

It required the exigencies of war to make these plans of par¬ 
ticular significance. In the autumn of the year 1787 was com¬ 
menced the war between Turkey and Russia which had been 
brewing for some years. Early in October the Capitan Pasha, 
who had been expecting the summons, was hastily recalled to 
Constantinople. There ensued at the Porte a strange, but quite 
characteristic, illustration of Ottoman diplomacy. The Capitan 
Pasha, feigning great enthusiasm for the English, promised 
Ainslie the satisfaction of his wishes with respect to the naviga¬ 
tion of the Red Sea. Definite action was delayed, however, by 
the alleged discovery of a British engagement to supply Russia 
with ships and marine forces in the opening war against Turkey. 61 
No sooner had this excuse lost its efficacy than the Turks justified 
further delay on the ground that the French (far less worthy 
than the English!) were demanding the same privilege. Finally 
the whole matter was referred to a Divan, an extraordinary meet¬ 
ing of Turkish Ministers, where the opening of the Red Sea 
was adjudged inopportune at that time. Thus the assumption of 
collective responsibility made the tortuous path of individual 
ministers easier. 

Ainslie was slow to discern in all these manoeuvres a definite and 
concerted plan to retain the friendship of the English Govern¬ 
ment, to promote the further giving of largesses, and otherwise to 
play one European government off against another without giving 

59 I. O. Records, ut supra, Vol. 6, Baldwin, 1 6 Oct., 1787. 

60 F. O.) 24/1, Lord Carmarthen, 17 May, Lord Cartaret, 6 June, 17875 L O. 
Records, ut supra , Vol. 6, Ainslie, 25 Oct., 17875 Charles-Roux, op. cit pp. 259, 260. 

61 I. O. Records, ut supra , Vol. 6, Baldwin, 16 Oct., 1787. 



42 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


real satisfaction to any. But when, after nearly a year of futile 
but always promising negotiations the real goal of British policy 
was apparently as far from being reached as ever, Ainslie con¬ 
cluded that he had been unwittingly led on, and to save the 
remainder of his prestige, decided to cease making presents and 
to suspend his activities. Although reports reached him in Octo¬ 
ber and November, 1788, that the Government of India proposed 
to send vessels to Suez early in the following year on the chance 
that arrangements with Turkish authorities would be completed 
in the meantime, he took no steps toward soliciting permission 
for their reception at Suez. 62 

_ The burning question of the right of employing the route 
through Egypt for despatches, if not for merchandise, was finally 
solved in a manner characteristically Turkish. While no formal 
permission would be granted by the Porte, it gradually became 
apparent, after the return of the Capitan Pasha to Constantinople, 
that infringements of the prohibitory firman of 1779 would be 
overlooked. Naturally, the Turkish administration in Cairo be¬ 
came aware of this attitude, and in April, 1788, Baldwin was able 
to report to his Government — 

I have succeeded in obtaining from the government at 
Cairo the authorization, for all passengers and despatches 
arriving at Suez by the packet boats of the Company, to dis¬ 
embark freely and to pass through the country without being 
molested. I have sent official orders to Suez to that effect. 
And if this government comes to be replaced by another, I 
have no doubt that I shall obtain the same permission. 68 

This Baldwin believed to be essentially what he had been sent 
to Egypt to obtain and he had little doubt that it would lead to 
an immediate resumption of activity at Suez. He also assumed 
that there would be as little objection to the revival of the trade 
to Egypt as to the passage of passengers and mails. Indeed, he 
reported in February, 1789, that loaded French vessels had been 
allowed to discharge their cargoes at Suez and that he was ar¬ 
ranging for the reception of two English trading vessels reported 

® 2 .Charles-Roux, L’Angleterre , etc., pp. 273-274. Ainslie himself was to a 

considerable degree responsible for this determination on the part of the Government 
of India, since such action was inspired by the reflected optimism of his reports to 
the Foreign Office. Still, Baldwin deserves a fair share of credit or blame, as the 
case may be, for having spoken in his despatches to India of the ££ solemn assurance ” 
given him by the Capitan Pasha that the right to navigate the Red Sea would soon 
be forthcoming. 

* 3 F. O., 24/1, Baldwin 2 or 8 April, 1788, quoted in Charles-Roux, L'An~ 
gleterre y etc., pp. 287-288. 



COMPETITION FOR THE OVERLAND ROUTE 43 

coming from India. “ The passage through Egypt,” he said, 
“ is free whenever the Company want to make use of it.” 64 


At the moment when Baldwin flattered himself he had attained 
the long coveted goal, when he was able to report that the Red 
Sea was open to English vessels, and when he was effectively 
obstructing the activities of the French, 65 events were making 
which tended to nullify his efforts. The plan concerted in 1787 
by the Foreign Office with the Post Office and Board of Control 
was, for some reason, never put into execution. 66 In 17 90, an 
intensive survey was made by a committee of the Privy Council 
of English trade with Turkish territories, with particular atten¬ 
tion to Egypt. In the report of the Committee on October 19, er 
Egypt was described as a country of great potentialities, “ the 
entrepot and the only channel ” by which commercial relations 
had long been maintained between Europe and Asia. But the 
existing trade of the country was described as of little importance, 
particularly to Great Britain. The fear was expressed also that 
goods from India imported through Egypt and sold in Europe 
might dangerously undersell goods brought by way of the Cape 
of Good Hope. 68 The opinion was stated that profitable trade 
with Egypt alone could never be revived until a better political 
order had been established there, and as the Turkish administra¬ 
tion of Ismai'l was giving way before the growing strength of the 
rebellious Beys, Murat and Ibrahim, this time appeared to be 
distant. But in view of Russian and French designs on Egypt at 
that moment, designs at which George Baldwin had correctly 
guessed and had widely advertised, the report concluded with 
the astonishing statement that even if the Turks were unable to 
reassert their authority in Egypt, Great Britain would need to 
take steps for safeguarding her interests by means of a treaty only 
when some other power had become master. 

This report attached no importance whatever to the matter of 

64 I. O. Records, ut supra, Alexandria, 23 Feb., 1789. 

65 IBid., Alexandria, 21 June, 1790. This has reference to the detention in 
Egypt for a considerable time of two French agents, St. Leger and Colier, whom 
Baldwin suspected of bearing despatches which boded ill for the Company’s 
possessions in India. 

66 See Charles-Roux, DA ngleterre, etc., p. 300. 

67 Contained in F. O., Turkey, 11, Report of the Lords of the Committee of the 
Privy Council Relative to the Trade with Turkey, 19 October, 17905 cited in 
Charles-Roux, op. cit p. 301. 

68 This, apparently, represented the opinion of the Levant Company, which 
furnished most of the data on which the report was based. The East India Company 
had already reached the conclusion that no dangerous competition was to be an¬ 
ticipated by this route. 



44 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


transmitting despatches through Egypt, its only concern touching 
the profits which might be derived from trade with that country. 
Its influence on the whole policy of the British Government with 
respect to Egypt was, nevertheless, profound} and when, in 1792, 
the new-born French Republic found it essential, in the face of a 
hostile European coalition, to determine to maintain both postal 
and commercial contact with India by way of the Red Sea, the 
English authorities were preparing to withdraw from Egypt 
their only establishment — that of the Consulate. 

The first suggestions of Lord Grenville, Foreign Secretary, to 
Henry Dundas, Secretary of War and President of the Board of 
Control, that since the consular office in Egypt was useless and 
expensive it should be suppressed, met with counter suggestions. 09 
The attack was repeated in 1793. On this occasion, Lord Gren¬ 
ville remarked that if the services of Baldwin were sufficiently 
valuable to the East India Company to warrant its assumption 
of the cost of the establishment, the consular post might be con¬ 
tinued, otherwise not. This argument was conclusive. Neither 
the Company nor the India Board cared to add to their budgets 
the sum of £2000 annually. On February 8, 1793, therefore, a 
despatch was issued from the Foreign Office terminating Bald¬ 
win’s appointment as British Consul and suspending his functions. 

This action was taken at an awkward time. On January 31, 
1793, war was declared between Great Britain and France, making 
a liaison between London and the Indian Presidencies far more 
essential than at any time since the establishment of Baldwin’s 
post. Lord Grenville had scarcely ceased denouncing the con¬ 
sular office as useless when Baldwin demonstrated its value in 
striking fashion. Upon receipt of the news that hostilities would 
soon commence, he instantly despatched it to India before the 
French garrison were aware of the state of affairs in Europe, 
enabling the English to capture Pondicherry, and “ to expel the 
French from India, and to decide the fate of the war in that 
country a second time, and to the great honour and incalculable 
advantage of England.” 70 The news of this action caused Dun¬ 
das to reopen with the Foreign Office the matter of maintaining 
the consular post in Egypt. He suggested in this correspondence 
that the India Board might find means of continuing the establish¬ 
ment and of supporting Baldwin who had shown himself so 
zealous .in imperial matters. This plan, however, appears to have 
been but a generous hope: Lord Grenville did not revert again 

69 Charles-Roux, of. cit. } p. 315, based on papers contained in the Fortescue 
Manuscripts preserved at Dropmore — the “ Drofmore Pafers 3> — vol. II. 

70 George Baldwin, Political Recollections Relathe to Egyft , p. 28. 



COMPETITION FOR THE OVERLAND ROUTE 45 

to the matter and the burden was not assumed by India Board or 
East India Company. 71 

Fortunately for the British cause, Baldwin did not abandon his 
post, because, for some unknown reason, he failed to receive 
the edict of deposition of February 8, 1793. It was only sev¬ 
eral months later when the Foreign Office refused to honor an 
expense account that he became aware that some unfavorable 
action had been taken. He had been ill for some time previously; 
and this turn of affairs caused him to make preparations to return 
to England. But at this juncture, his personal representative in 
England was orally requested to the Foreign Office to ask 
Baldwin to remain at his post during the war with France, his 
expenses being paid as before. This Baldwin interpreted as 
meaning that his consular position had been confirmed, and he 
continued to act as though no interruption had occurred. 72 

Under such an arrangement, which savored strongly of oriental 
equivocation, Baldwin could hardly have rested easily. Although 
he could protest that he had faithfully served the interests of his 
country and had obstructed the purposes of its enemies, the fact 
remained that he had never been able to execute the principal 
injunction in the instructions issued to him when he became consul. 
This was to negotiate a treaty with such authorities as might be in 
control in Egypt. Such a reflection must have been at the bottom 
of a treaty drawn up between himself and the restored Beys, 
Murat and Ibrahim, in May, 1794, the text of which was trans¬ 
mitted to London with but few explanatory remarks. 73 The treaty 
had been so long delayed, it was pointed out, because of the lack of 
stability in Egyptian politics and because of the obstinacy of Sir 
Robert Ainslie, who had refused to cooperate with Baldwin when 
a treaty might have been obtained earlier. 

As for the document itself, it followed closely the lines of the 
treaty obtained from the Beys in 1785 by Traguet. In providing 
for freedom of navigation of the Red Sea and the landing of 
articles of trade at Suez, it represented the same objective on the 
part of the Beys as the treaty of 1785, namely, their hope of 
making capital of the revival of trade through customs duties. 
Freedom of transit through Egypt for mails and passengers was 
readily conceded, but in this the Beys were not at all interested, 
as it produced no revenue. In fact, it was made to appear that 

71 Dr of more Papers 3 II, 621, cited as above. 

72 I. O., Factory Records, Baldwin, 10 Oct., 1794. 

73 F. O., 24/1, Willis, 20 (29?) May, 1794, cited in Charles-Roux, op. dt, 3 
p. 318. Baldwin was suffering from the prevalent disease of ophthalmia at this 
time, hence his correspondence was entirely in the hands of his secretary, Richard 
Willis. 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


46 

the transit through Egypt should be only a means to an end — 
the end being a revival of English trade, which had been practi¬ 
cally nil in Egypt since 1779. For the encouragement of trade, 
the English were to enjoy the position of most-favored nation. 
Other features were the usual ones: anchorage fees, collection of 
customs, exemptions. 

As to the duties themselves, those of 3% specified in the Cap¬ 
itulations were to be levied for the Ottoman Government, and 
additional duties of 6% for the Beys. Half of the 6 % tax was 
to be paid by English merchants, half by the native purchasers at 
the Cairo mart. 74 In submitting the treaty to the Foreign Office, 
Baldwin’s secretary pointed out that the communication through 
Egypt, which had been the source of British interest in Egypt for 
a number of years, would be safe only if it had the accompaniment 
of trade. Obviously the Beys had made strong representations on 
that point. 

Almost at the moment the treaty was concluded, the British 
cruiser Panther arrived at Suez with Bombay despatches for the 
Court of Directors in London. This happy incident served sev¬ 
eral purposes. 75 It enabled Baldwin to send a copy of the new 
treaty to London by a courier from Bombay, Major Macdonald, 
it gave an opportunity for the Beys to demonstrate their coopera¬ 
tion, as it seemed to them to presage the arrival of merchant ships 
in the near future, and it permitted Baldwin to advertise in the 
presidencies the new commercial engagement. Upon the return 
of the Panther to India at the end of August, Baldwin despatched 
his secretary, Willis, to the Council of Bombay, bearing a memo¬ 
rial on the opportunity which now offered for the reopening of 
the trade with Egypt. In this, taking for granted the approval 
of the home authorities, Baldwin assured the Governor and 
Council of Bombay of the likelihood that his treaty with the Beys 
would be ratified at the Porte, now that Sir Robert Ainslie had 
been replaced by Robert Lisbon as Ambassador. The trade with 
Egypt, he pointed out, was safe, in any case. Finally, he appealed 
for a show of the revival of trade in order to safeguard the route 
through Egypt, if for no other purpose. 76 

74 The substance of the treaty is contained in Charles-Roux, VAngleterre, etc., 
pp. ^3 20-3 2 3. 

75 I. O., Factory Records, Vol. 6, Despatch from Alexandria, 10 April, 1793. 
Maj. Macdonald was the bearer of only a portion of the despatches destined for 
London. The others were intrusted to Baldwin to forward as best he might. The 
originals he sent on to London by way of Constantinople, expecting to send duplicates 
by another route. The originals apparently did not reach their destination. Baldwin 
was too ill to exert himself with regard to the duplicates, and he had no authority 
to hire a vessel, in any event. It was only in November, 1797, that these were 
sent on to London by a chance traveller. 

76 Charles-Roux, 12 Angleterre , etc., pp. 324—325. 



COMPETITION FOR THE OVERLAND ROUTE 47 

Next Baldwin turned his attention to securing the formal assent 
of the Porte to the proposed resumption of trading operations. 
Baldwin’s reflection on this point had counselled tact. “ I pre¬ 
sume, my Lord,” he wrote to Lord Grenville on October 10, 1794, 
“ that it will be sufficient to demand the privilege of coming to 
Suez, as well as any other port belonging to the Grand Seignior, 
as an article already included in the Capitulations, without 
requesting the sanction of our treaty with the beys.” 7r With all 
this he thought fully to justify the establishment of the consular 
office in Egypt and to secure the continuation of the post, which 
would, he said, with the development of the projected trade, 
produce a revenue which would cover the cost of the establish¬ 
ment. 

All these efforts, however, were to no avail. Baldwin did not 
receive even a note of acknowledgment from the Foreign Office 
after the treaty had been forwarded from Egypt. The records 
of the Foreign Office and of the East India Company give no 
indication that the existence of the treaty was ever mentioned 
in any of ‘the despatches to the British Ambassador at Constan¬ 
tinople. Eight years earlier the hope of accomplishing such a 
treaty had been the principal factor in the establishment of the 
English consulate in Egypt. Now the consummation of this hope 
was ignored utterly. The reasons for this neglect in 1794 are not 
definitely known, but they may be conjectured with some de¬ 
gree of confidence. In the first place, Sir Robert Ainslie was in 
London, in the good graces of the Foreign Office, and he would 
naturally have used all of his influence to discredit Baldwin. In 
the second place, with the exception of the message sent to India 
in 1792 leading to the capture of Pondicherry, few messages of 
importance had passed through Egypt in Tate years, and those 
were in many instances long in reaching their destination. Since 
merchant vessels no longer sailed to Egypt at frequent intervals, 
messages had to be despatched, on the oriental side of Egypt, 
either in British or Company’s vessels of war or in native boats. 
The former method was far too expensive for frequent communi¬ 
cation, while the latter was altogether unreliable. At best, the 
communication between India and Egypt had to be seasonal, due 
to the fury of the southwest monsoon. 

Doubtless there were other contributing factors. The frequent 
changes of control in Egypt during the last quarter of the century 
were not calculated to inspire great faith in the permanence or 
stability of any particular regime or in faithful adherence to its 
treaty engagements. Moreover, having taken the step of sup¬ 
pressing the consular office at a time when no treaty was in sight, 

77 F. O., 24/1, Baldwin, 10 Oct., 1794; cited in Charles-Roux, of, dt , 3 p. 327. 



48 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

the Foreign Office could scarcely restore the post merely because 
of the sudden appearance of a document of questionable intrinsic 
value. Even the commercial possibilities seemed slight. The 
English had no commercial establishments in any part of Egypt, 
and those established there long before by the French were lan¬ 
guishing. Nor did the prospect of a revival of trade appeal to 
English interests in India as it had in the days of Warren Hastings. 
Baldwin’s appeal to Bombay for merchant vessels fell on ears 
nearly as deaf as those at the Foreign Office in London. It has 
already been indicated that the prospect of French or Russian pre¬ 
ponderance in the eastern Mediterranean caused no such emotions 
of fear and anxiety as recurred again and again during the course 
of the nineteenth century. 78 Thus, the various considerations 
which had led to the abolition of the consular establishment were 
sufficiently numerous and weighty to prevent any serious recon¬ 
sideration of the action. 70 

Although the British Government after 1786 steadily lost in¬ 
terest in Egypt, discovering there neither attractive commercial 
opportunities nor a reliable and essential high road to India, other 
European powers were less short-sighted. It was very generally 
believed on the continent that the Ottoman Empire would not 
survive another major war without breaking up, and already 
estimates were being made of the division of spoil. In this 
Russia was particularly forehanded. Having already acquired 
considerable portions both of Polish and Turkish territory, her 
appetite was thereby made the keener for further acquisitions 
which might lead to the much-coveted seaport on the Mediter¬ 
ranean. 80 France, having had no taste of Turkish blood, was 
anxious for one. 81 

As early as 1785, when another Russo-Turkish war was in 
prospect, suggestions were made for a partition of Turkish terri¬ 
tories. The French Ambassador at St. Petersburg was approached 
with the proposal that France take over certain Mediterranean 
portions of Turkey in the event of war. The French Govern- 

78 See above, pp. 9, 12, 17. 

79 tCharles-Roux, V AngUterre > etc., p. 330, calls attention to the additional 
fact that Baldwin, during his term as consul, had not literally obeyed his instruc¬ 
tions. Whereas he had been directed to reside at the native capital, Cairo, he had, as a 
matter of fact, lived at Alexandria. Moreover, as I have pointed out above, the 
continuation of his office was to depend upon his success in negotiating a treaty at 
once. The fact that this was altogether impracticable did not place on the British 
Government any obligation to continue the establishment. 

80 See William Miller, The Ottoman Emfire and Its Successors } 1801—192a, 
pp. 7-16, et fassim. 

81 Charles-Roux, Les Origines de TExf edition d’Egypte, pp. 137—145. 



COMPETITION FOR THE OVERLAND ROUTE 49 

ment, although visibly interested, did not follow up the proposal. 82 
When war actually broke out between Russia and Turkey in 1787, 
however, the successor of the great Vergennes, Montmorin, was 
besieged with plans for French annexation of Cyprus, Candia, 
Crete, and even Egypt. Some of these owed their details to the 
fear that England, which power obviously had great interests 
at stake in Egypt, would take over that country, and the rees¬ 
tablishment of the consulate and the contemporaneous publication 
in England of various books and pamphlets on the value of Egypt 
to England gave color to the suspicion. 83 

Whatever impulse the French Government may have had to 
embark on a career of conquest in the eastern Mediterranean was 
held in abeyance by the financial condition of France, which made 
aggression on a large scale quite beyond the bounds of possibility. 
Even the matter of establishing a route through Egypt for de¬ 
spatches had to be discarded for the same general reason: packet 
boats which did not pay their own way by the cargoes they carried 
proved to be expensive luxuries. So it was with France as with 
Great Britain; “ the project of conquering or occupying Egypt 
remained only a project, seductive without doubt, but adventurous 
and above all prohibited.” 84 

The Russian Government, under Catherine the Great, was 
unlike that of France in being embarrassed neither by scruple nor 
by dearth of funds. Being particularly anxious to secure a hold 
on the Mediterranean, every prospect of obtaining such a prize 
was carefully canvassed. Unexpectedly Egypt became a land of 
promise. In 1785' a group of Beys, led by the irrepressible 
Ibrahim, determined to secure independence, if possible, by means 
of foreign alliance. For that reason they entered into secret 
negotiations with Russia, confiding their plans meanwhile to 
Baldwin. The Russian Consul, the Baron de Thonus, handled 
the situation awkwardly enough, and suggested appealing to 
Austria for assistance. The Porte, meanwhile, aware of these 
schemes, sent reenforcements to Egypt to support their tottering 
regime and to await the anticipated Russian attack. It did not at 
once materialize. During the course of the subsequent Russo- 
Turkish War, however, when Egypt was practically defenceless, 
a significant gesture was made. In August, 1788, a Russian frig¬ 
ate of forty guns, accompanied by two transports bearing arms, 
munitions and gifts appeared before the town of Damietta, di- 

82 Ibid., pp. 176—177. 

83 Works by the well-known travellers, Volney and Savary, for instance. Even 
the practicability of an isthmian or a Nile canal to open an all-water route was 
considered in the former. 

84 Charles-Roux, VAngleterre, etc., p. 279. 



5 o BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

rected by the former consul, Baron de Thonus. The French agent 
at Damietta immediately placed himself at the service of the 
Russians, “whether through a national interest in the Russian 
design or through imbecility, I do not know,” said Baldwin. 8 ” 

The purpose of the Russians apparently was to encourage the 
Beys to undertake a general revolt against Turkey. But the proj¬ 
ect met an early death. The subtility of the Turkish creature, 
Ismail, was more than a match for the bluster of the Russian 
agents, and the affair ended with the temporary incarceration of 
both Baron de Thonus and the French agent. The main Russian 
fleet, which had been advertised by the Russian Consul, did not 
appear in Egyptian waters, and Ismail remained for the time 
being master of the situation. 86 The first Russian overture to the 
Beys had a sequel, however, which smacked of o-pera bouffe. In 
January, 1790, Ainslie was instructed from the British Foreign 
Office to inform the Porte of an astounding plan of the Russians 
for the conquest of Egypt. It was no less than a plan to despatch 
from Kronstadt a high seas fleet of eight vessels of war around 
the Cape of Good Hope to the Red Sea under the Dutch flag. 
Jeddah and Yambo were to be destroyed, Mecca and Medina 
pillaged, the tomb of Mohammed violated, and Egypt threat¬ 
ened. 87 There indeed appeared no likelihood that adequate 
measures could be taken for averting such a powerful blow, and 
while the Turks displayed great excitement, practically nothing 
was done. On this as on many other occasions Turkish apathy 
remained unpunished. No Russian fleet appeared in the Red 
Sea, and the enterprise of the Baron de Thonus remained the only 
naval exploit in Egyptian waters. Baldwin, who had taken the 
whole Russian episode philosophically enough, returned to his 
denunciation of French machinations. 

For the time being, French designs were hardly to be feared. 
In 1789 occurred the deluge anticipated for years, which com¬ 
pletely swept away the ancien regime. But the National Assembly 
proved to be an apt student of international affairs, and readily 
gave ear to a memorial submitted by the French merchants in the 
Levant in x 790. 

If the French abandon Cairo [they said], the communica¬ 
tion with the East Indies is interrupted; our vessels will no 
longer bring to Suez the cloths of Bengal. This commerce, 

85 Charles-Roux, VAngleterre, etc., p. 292. 

86 Ibid,, pp. 292-294. 

87 F. O., Turkey, 11, The Duke of Leeds to Ainslie, 8 Jan., 17905 cited in 
Charles-Roux, of, cit ., p. 297. 



COMPETITION FOR THE OVERLAND ROUTE 51 

which has caused so much anxiety to the English Company, 
which, better directed, could give them a mortal blow, is lost 
for France. 88 

To avoid this loss, the merchants asked that a new treaty be 
signed with Turkey, based on the Capitulations, enjoining the 
Egyptian authorities from placing obstacles in the way of com¬ 
mercial operations. It was even suggested that a small French 
fleet, blockading the Mediterranean ports of Egypt, or the seizure 
of the annual supply fleet from Jeddah to Suez, could quickly 
bring the Beys to terms. By such means would the French be 
entrenched in Egypt. “ Cairo offers an easy communication with 
the East Indies, and the port of Suez would be fatal to the Eng¬ 
lish. . . The colossus which the English have raised in Bengal 
would be thrown down.” 80 

However, the following years were dark for the French in the 
Levant. The French East India Company lost its chartered 
privileges. French trade fell off. French merchants, deprived 
of the protection of a firm government, were mistreated in eastern 
markets where formerly they had been courted. The vigor of 
the National Convention gave hope that such wrongs would be 
redressed, and a new memorial was sent to the Marine Depart¬ 
ment in 1793 reiterating the necessity of keeping hold of strategic 
points in Egypt, by armed force, if necessary. 90 This appeal, 
being more timely, was more effective than the preceding. Its 
immediate effect was to bring about the reestablishment of the 
French Consulate at Cairo, which had been suppressed since 1777. 
The choice for this position was the merchant Magallon, who was 
gazetted consul on the thirtieth of January, 1793, nine days prior 
to the date of the letter from the British Foreign Office which 
relieved Baldwin of his position as Consul General in Egypt. 91 
It was these developments which produced new despairing pro¬ 
tests to the English Government against the abandonment of 
Egypt. In January, 1795, Sir William Sidney Smith, brother of 
Spencer Smith, secretary of the British Embassy at the Porte, 
memorialized the Foreign Office on the plans of the French and 
the likelihood that they would be able to revive the old trade 
route through Egypt to the great detriment of the English. This 
the Foreign Minister was slow to believe. It did not appear 

88 Archives of the Chamber of Commerce of Marseilles, quoted in Charles- 
Roux, Les Origines cie VExpedition i > Egyfte > p. 225. 

89 Ibid,, pp. 227—228. 

90 Archives, Affaires Etrangeres, Cairo, 1 Feb., 17935 quoted in ibid., pp. 
248—250. 

91 Charles-Roux, Les Origines , etc., p. 252. 



5 2 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


probable that the French Republic would be able to execute such 
a project, or that it would jeopardize its influence at Constan¬ 
tinople by military action in Egypt. In London the matter was 
allowed to rest. 

The reestablishment of a French consulate at Cairo did not 
lead to better relations with the Beys. Indeed, it resulted in no 
immediate advantages to French merchants in Egypt, who found 
it necessary to remain in Alexandria for their safety. The re¬ 
juvenated French Government, however, proved to be more 
persistent than the Bourbon monarchy had been. In October, 
1795, a special agent, Dubois-Thainville arrived at Alexandria 
for the purpose of treating directly with the Beys for the opening 
of a regular trade and communication between Suez and India. 
These negotiations, coming to the ears of Baldwin, led him to see a 
plan for attacking India through Egypt — a plan which he com¬ 
municated at once to the British Foreign Office, suggesting that 
a consular office might still be of service. Although this produced 
only a terse statement from London reiterating the suppression 
of Baldwin’s former office, he still loyally used his influence with 
the Beys to defeat Dubois-Thainville’s project. In 1801 Baldwin 
noted in his Political Recollections that “In 1796 a certain Tin- 
ville arrived in Cairo to inveigle the Beys of Egypt into the 
designs of the French, and particularly to obtain consent to their 
project of passing an army through Egypt, to the East Indies, by 
the Red Sea, in order to strengthen Tipoo (the Sultan of Mysore), 
and finally to annihilate the British Dominion in the East In¬ 
dies.” 02 However true that may have been, it anticipated such 
an attempt only by a matter of two years. 

The lack of success in treating with the Beys of Egypt at last 
led the French to make a serious study of the purpose Baldwin 
had so long attributed to them. Magallon had already pointed 
the way. In 1795 he wrote — 

Masters of the Red Sea, we should not be long in giving 
the law to the English and in ousting them from India. . . 

By way of Suez, during the favorable monsoon, a quantity of 
troops could be transported to India with few vessels. Our 
soldiers would not need to be on the sea more than sixty days, 
instead of, by way of the Cape of Good Hope, a matter of 
six months. By way of Suez we should not lose one man in 
a hundred j by the other way, we should be very fortunate 
not to lose ten per cent. 93 

George [Baldwin, Politicctl Recollections Relctfive to Egypt) p. 28. 

17 June, 1795, quoted in Charles-Roux, UAngleterre , etc., pp. 342—343. 



COMPETITION FOR THE OVERLAND ROUTE 53 
And later he stated to the Commissioner of Foreign Relations — 

Departing from Toulon on the 20th of June, French 
troops could be at Alexandria on the 10th of July, at Cairo 
about the 20th, at Suez about the 25th, forty-five days later in 
India, before the English would have had time to take any 
defensive measure. Ten thousand French newly arrived 
from Europe, in a single campaign, would chase them out 
entirely from Bengal, where they have their principal mili¬ 
tary establishment. 94 

It was these letters of Magallon’s which led to a detailed in¬ 
vestigation by the French Directory of the practicability of acting 
on such recommendations. The idea of a military and naval 
expedition to Egypt began to emerge from the realm of specula¬ 
tion and to assume a garb of definiteness. The continued arrival 
of English vesels at Suez at irregular intervals, bearing despatches 
and, in some instances, articles of trade, spurred on the plan. 95 
Magallon was recalled from Egypt to contribute his counsels to 
the scheme. By the end of 1797 the idea of an expedition direct 
to Egypt and on to India was far advanced toward completion. 
Only George Baldwin remained as an English bulwark between 
France and India, and his services were nearing an end. 90 He was 
old, feeble, and nearly blind, and now that he was long out of 
profitable employment his resources were very meagre. But 
before the impending stroke was delivered by his enemies the 
French, to whose undoing he had devoted the better portion of 
his life, even he had left Egypt to spend his last days in his own 
country, which had rewarded his services so poorly. 

94 i Oct., 1795. 

95 Baldwin, of. clt p. 30$ Charles-Roux, UAngleterre , etc., p. 34.1. 

96 Baldwin’s last patriotic service, according to his own account, was the despatch 
of information concerning the departure from Europe of a fleet of Dutch trans¬ 
ports, bound for the Cape of Good Hope, to Admiral Elphinstone, then in command 
of an English fleet in Indian waters. This enabled the English to capture the 
Dutch off the Cape and so to save Cape Colony for the English. — Baldwin, of. 
cit. y p. 29. 



CHAPTER III 


blows at Britain’s “ feet of clay ” 

I N THE decade between 1788 and 1798 there were few de¬ 
velopments of note in Egypt. Trading vessels continued to 
arrive at Red Sea ports at distant intervals, and packets of 
despatches crossed Egypt back and forth en route to India or 
England. 1 George Baldwin’s treaty with the Beys in 1794, al¬ 
though ignored in England, still exerted some slight influence on 
the use of the overland route. 2 After the French declaration of 
war in 1793 unusual care had to be exercised in sending English 
vessels to Egyptian waters, but few interruptions of the route were 
due to French interference during this interval. 

The French Revolution made no appreciable change in French 
policy or practice in the East. Those Frenchmen who had served 
under the old regime of Louis XVI became the loyal servants 
of the Revolution and were spurred on to increased activity. The 
new wave of proselytism inaugurated by revolutionary France 
coincided very nearly with the policy of non-intervention in 
Asiatic states long planned by the East India Company and now 
seriously undertaken by the Governor-General of India, Sir John 
Shore. Such a policy of retrenchment created the inevitable 
impression of British decadence among the native potentates in 
India and western Asia and thus played into the hands of the 
French. In several instances alliances were formed between 
France and oriental states for the purpose of driving out the 
English. The spring of 1798 saw the defection of several of the 
most powerful of the Indian states. Among these was Mysore, 
whose Sultan, Tipoo Sahib, gladly employed the services of 
French officers in the training of his troops in modern warfare 
against the day when the cooperation of French forces would 
make possible the complete expulsion of the English from India. 3 

1 I. O. Factory Records, Egypt and Red Sea, Vol. 6 , despatch of 5 Apr., 1798 s 

J. S. Buckingham, Travels in Palestine. . . (London, 1821), pp. via, ix. 

2 F. Charles-Roux, VAngleterre, PIsthme de Suez, el I’Egypte, p. 367. 

3 Ibi ^> PP- 348 , 360, 364, 


54 



BLOWS AT BRITAIN’S “ FEET OF CLAY ” 55 

By the time French plans were ripe for invading Egypt, the 
outlook for British interests in Asia was decidedly dark. 

The Napoleonic expedition to Egypt in May, 1798, which so 
astonished the world and left such a train of important con¬ 
sequences, did not spring solely from the ambition and genius of 
the Corsican, as many contemporaries believed. Rather, it was 
the logical outgrowth of a generation of French policy in the 
Levant translated into action by peculiarly favorable circumstances 
both in Europe and in the East. Earlier French traders and 
strategists had advocated the seizure of Egypt for the commercial 
advantages which would be sure to follow, or to forestall a similar 
move on the part of the English to control the trade of the Red 
Sea or to keep open a route of communications. But after 1792 
the project was considered by the French Directory as a means of 
striking a vital blow at Great Britain. “Egypt,” argued the 
Marquis de Talleyrand, “ offers us, besides, the means of ousting 
the English from India by sending a body of r 5,000 troops from 
Cairo by way of Suez.” 4 By the beginning of the year 1798 the 
idea of attacking the English in India by way of Egypt had sprung 
up spontaneously in several quarters, since the despatch of a 
French fleet by way of the Cape of Good Hope was obviously 
impracticable. 5 

Such a plan could not but appeal to the master strategist Na¬ 
poleon Bonaparte, in whose fertile mind the details of such an 
operation were maturing while he was still unaware of the study 
devoted to the project for years by various officials of government. 
In the belief that he was broaching a novel plan, Bonaparte wrote 
to the Directors in August, 1797, his conviction that “ The times 
are not distant when we feel that, in order really to destroy Eng¬ 
land, it will be necessary to seize Egypt.” 6 But already the 
Directors had before them a great deal of information bearing on 
the value of Egypt and the means of acquiring that country, and 
were more than half convinced of the practicability of attempting 
such a daring stroke in that direction. It required only the dis¬ 
covery of the obstacles in the way of a direct invasion of England 
to bring Bonaparte and the Directory into full accord upon the ad¬ 
visability of a quick, powerful and secret blow at Egypt. 7 

4 Quoted in ibid., p. 369. 

5 Ibid., p. 347. 

6 Le Baron I. de Testa, Recueil des Traites de la Porte Ottomane . . . I, 516. 

7 F. Charles-Roux, Les Origines de PExpedition d'&gyfte, p. 341. This author, 
who has made a careful and accurate study of the factors involved, believes that 
the expedition to Egypt, in spite of long continued plans, would not have been 
undertaken in 1798 if France had not been at war with England and had not found 
it impracticable to make a direct attack on that country. 



56 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


Such a course was determined upon on April 12, 1798, and 
preparations were immediately begun. Armaments were pre¬ 
pared at Toulon, Corsica, various Italian ports, and Corfu. Many 
of the troops of the “ army of England ” were reorganized into 
the “army of the Orient.” Diplomatic plans kept pace with 
military and naval preparations. Despatches couched in glowing 
terms were sent express to restive rulers of the East to inform 
them that the day of deliverance from the British yoke was near. 8 
Statements were prepared to legitimize an unprovoked attack on 
an Ottoman territory. For this purpose, it was made to appear 
that “ the Beys of Egypt, who have themselves seized the gov¬ 
ernment of Egypt, have formed the closest associations with the 
English and have placed themselves under their control.” In 
consequence of the many injuries heaped upon the French because 
of this alliance, “it is the duty of the Republic to pursue its 
enemies wherever they are to be found and in whatever place 
they carry on their hostile operations.” 0 By this means the 
Directory hoped to justify its actions and preserve the neutrality, 
if not the friendship, of the Porte, which was looked" upon as 
essential to the success of the enterprise and for which French 
representatives at Constantinople had long been laboring. 10 

It had not occurred to the English, meanwhile, that their 
Gallic rivals might be harboring designs on the possession of 
Egypt. George Baldwin had often raised the cry of “ wolf! ” in 
vain. Secure in the feeling that the Ottoman Government would 
be able to care for its own, they took no thought of Egypt for 
themselves and could not impute such thoughts to others. There 
was now no English consul in Egypt 5 not even an English mer¬ 
chant was established there. The Levant Company had long since 
lost all interest in the country, and the East India Company was 
not sufficiently interested in its overland communications to take 
active steps to safeguard them. It required a war with France 
and a major attack by the French on Egypt to change the attitude 
of the British Government from one of neglect to one of active 
interest in the condition of Egypt. 

The stroke authorized by the Directory was quickly executed. 
On May 19 a large French fleet sailed from Toulon convoying 
a vast array of transports bearing a veteran army of nearly 40,000 
men. A corps of able young officers accompanied the expedition 

8 See De Testa, of, cit, 3 I, 520 if., 573. 

9 De Testa, of, cit, } I, 5365 Clement, Marquis de la Jonquiere, UExf edition 
d y 6gyfte, 1798-1801 (4 vols.j Paris, n. d.), I, 343-344. Cf. Charles-Roux, VAn- 
gleterre } etc., p. 362. 

10 De Testa, of, at ., I, 538. 



BLOWS AT BRITAIN’S “ FEET OF CLAY ” 57 

and a large group of civil experts was taken along to survey the 
country to be occupied, to study its character, and to report on its 
value. The work was to be done thoroughly. The English, 
meanwhile, were at a loss to comprehend these proceedings. In 
spite of numerous significant signs and warnings from observers, 11 
there was no thought among Government heads that the expedi¬ 
tion was aimed at Egypt. Lord Nelson, who was sent into the 
Mediterranean to counteract French purposes, could scarcely 
hazard a guess as to the meaning of French plans. This enabled 
Napoleon to execute his first projects. Barely evading the Eng¬ 
lish fleet, he seized and garrisoned Malta on the excuse that the 
act was to prevent the island’s falling prey to Austria. 12 

Having sequestered the treasure of the Knights of St. John, 
the French fleet departed for Egypt and arrived without warning 
at Alexandria, only twenty-four hours after Nelson had quitted 
the place, assured that the French were bound elsewhere. Na¬ 
poleon’s arrival was so sudden and unexpected that the English 
transient in Egypt had no opportunity of escaping with their 
property. ' Baldwin was no longer there to give counsel to the 
distracted Egyptians. Leaving his affairs in the hands of the 
Venetian, Rosetti, he had departed for his native country on 
March 14. 13 English goods still littered the markets in Cairo and 
ships from India were unloading at Suez. The French seized a 
large portion of an Indian mail containing some valuable secret 
papers which had just arrived at Alexandria, and an English ves¬ 
sel in the harbor barely escaped with the remainder as the French 
transports sailed in. 

The landing of troops from the French vessels and the taking 
of Alexandria were quickly accomplished. Attention was then 
directed to the immediate purpose of the expedition, which was 
the building of a series of forts for the control of the passageway 
from Alexandria through Cairo to the head of the Red Sea. At 
Suez a French fleet was to be collected which might presently sail 
to inflict the long-meditated mortal blow on Britain in India. 11 

11 L 0 . Records, ut sufra, u Memoir Concerning Egypt and the Red Sea,” by 
A. Dalrymple. 

12 De Testa, of. cit., I, 5175 J. J. E. Roy, Les Frangais en igyfte, ou Souvenirs 
des Cam f agues d'Egyfte et la Syrie, far un Officier de VExfedition , . . (Tours, 

1855), pp. 19-21. 

13 I. O, Records, tit sufra, despatch of 3 Mar., 17985 Charles-Roux, L*An~ 
gleterre, etc., p. 3685 D. A. Cameron, Egyft in the Nineteenth Century (London, 
1898), pp. 217-2185 William James, The Naval History of Great Britain, from the 
Declaration of War by France in 1792, to the Accession of George IV (New ed., 
6 vols., London, 1886), II, 169-175. 

14 J. F. Miot, Mi moires four servir a PHistoire des Exf editions en Egyfte et en 
Syrie {Paris, 1804). The account of the invasion is given at length by La Jonquiere, 
in TJExfedition d } f£gyf£e . 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


58 

While Egypt was being subdued and fortifications were being 
constructed, French engineers ran a line of levels between the 
Mediterranean and Red Seas in order to ascertain whether it were 
possible to construct a sea-level ship canal. The results of this 
survey were not at all encouraging, not so much because of the 
impediments found as because of an apparent difference of thirty- 
two and a half feet in the levels of the two seas. 15 The report of 
this survey effectually ended for the time all projects for a ship 
canal between the two seas. 

Meanwhile, French designs on India had been checked in more 
serious ways. In April, 1798 — three months before Bonaparte’s 
landing in Egypt— Sir John Shore had been succeeded as Gov¬ 
ernor-General in India by Richard Wellesley, Earl of Morning- 
ton. Wellesley was already aware of the critical nature of affairs 
in India and he acted promptly and vigorously to create a margin 
of safety. His apprehension of French agents and his summary 
demands of Indian princes that they discharge French officers and 
disband their armies ended the immediate danger of' a general 
uprising in India and went far toward restoring fallen prestige. 
To these decisive measures was added the influence of a great 
naval victory in Egyptian waters. 

Bonaparte had found both the outer and inner harbors at 
Alexandria too shallow and intricate to accommodate his powerful 
navy in safety. While his transports discharged their living 
freight at Alexandria, therefore, the high seas fleet was sent off 
to anchor in a protected position at Aboukir Bay, proximate to 
one of the mouths of the Nile. Here the French fleet was at last 
discovered by Lord Nelson, after a long and heart-breaking search, 
on August 1, and battle was immediately joined, with the French 
fleet still at anchor. By the morning of August 2, the French 
fleet, _ although potentially stronger, perhaps, than that of the 
English, was almost entirely destroyed or captured. It was a 
timely and peculiarly decisive action. 18 The French army, al¬ 
though undefeated, was marooned. 

Description de PEgypte, oil Recueil des Observations et des Rec/scrc/tes <pui ont 
ete faites m tgypte, pendant VExpedition de PArmee franfaise, public par les 
Ordres de Napoleon le Grand (io vols., Paris, 1809-1822), I, 57-58; De Testa, op. 
tit., II, 82—85. The difference in levels reported by the French surveyors had a very 
considerable effect on the later development of routes to India. The reputation of 
these engineers for accuracy was such that their findings were everywhere accepted as 
authoritative until definitely disproved by surveyors in the employ of Ferdinand de 
Lesseps much later. De Lesseps himself seems to have been inspired by surveys of the 
Isthmus made about 1830 which were not highly credited at the time. See F. R. 
Chesney, Narrative of the Euphrates Expedition, p. 11; Parliamentary Paper , 1834, 
No. 478, Min. of Ev., p. 2. 

1,6 James, op. cit., II, 215; Hansard, The Parliamentary History of England 



BLOWS AT BRITAIN’S “ FEET OF CLAY ” 59 

Although deprived of the possibility of receiving supplies and 
reenforcements from France, Bonaparte continued his military 
operations in Egypt, giving rise to the thought that he still hoped 
to reach India by way of the Red Sea. Nelson therefore took 
measures to apprise the Indian Presidencies of French designs as 
quickly as possible that they might be on guard. 17 On August 10 
he commissioned Lieut. Thomas Duval to proceed to India with 
despatches by what was frequently termed at that period the 
overland route. Lieut. Duval sailed in a native boat from Egypt 
to Alexandretta where he was welcomed by the Turkish author¬ 
ities. Procuring an Arab costume, he continued by way of Aleppo 
to Bagdad. The Pasha of Bagdad, pleased by the news of the 
victory of the Nile,Jieaped honors on him, and furnished him 
with a boat which conveyed him to Basrah. Here, after a brief 
delay, he was able to take passage on an English packet vessel, 
and on October 21 he arrived at Bombay, having completed the 
journey, including stops, in about seventy days. 18 From this time 
forward for a number of years despatches were sent to and from 
India by way of a line through Syria and Mesopotamia or through 
Arabia to the Persian Gulf. The other overland route through 
Egypt was not extensively used again until the advent of steam 
navigation. 10 

Even the route through Syria was placed in jeopardy by the 
French as soon as the conquest of Egypt had been completed. 
Although his friendly sentiments toward Mohammedans in 
general and the Ottoman Porte in particular had been reiterated, 
Bonaparte had been unable to preserve the neutrality of the Turks 
and he was compelled to face their open hostility. Under these 
circumstances a plan presented itself which apparently had not 
been thought of when the expeditionary force departed from 
France. 20 This was no less than to use Egypt as a base of opera¬ 
tions for invading Syria and seizing the ports garrisoned by the 
Turks, and to march thence overland to India, relying 6n the 
friendship of the restive Arabs and Persians for assistance against 


(London, 1819), XXXIII, 15275 Charles Norry, An Account of the French Ex¬ 
pedition to Egypt . . . (Trans, from the French: London, 1800), pp. 10-12. Norry 
was an eye-witness of the battle. Lord Nelson received, among other rewards for 
this victory, a gift of £1 0,000 from the East India Company, “ with a proper sense of 
the benefit they derived from the Nile victory. 55 

17 I. O. Records, ut supra, u Extract of Letter from the Governor in Council at 
Bombay to the Governor-General in Council, 55 16 Nov., 1798. 

18 James, op. cit II, 206, 465—466. 

19 E. B. B. Barker, Syria and Egypt under the Last Five Sultans of Turkey (2 
vols., London, 1876), I, 55. 

20 De Testa, op. cit., I, 546-548, 564, 567, 572—5755 Chares-Roux, VAngle* 
terre, etc,, p. 363. 



6o 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


the English. The move was rash, but it was undertaken. The 
Syrian campaign was in many respects brilliant, but it ended in 
complete failure. An English fleet prevented the occupation of 
important Syrian ports, Turkish armies loomed up on the north 
and threatened an invasion of Egypt in the rear, while the French 
were not equipped for long marches through the unknown semi- 
arid regions eastward. Defeat was written in the retreat to Egypt, 
as the hasty return of Bonaparte to France bore witness. 21 

Even with its commander in France and without a supporting 
fleet, an undefeated French army in Egypt was a potential danger. 
So thought Sir Sidney Smith, when he arranged the Convention 
of El Arish between the Ottoman Government and General 
Kleber, in charge of the French army, providing for the peaceful 
evacuation of Egypt by the French, arms and all. This arrange¬ 
ment, however, was disavowed by the British Ministry, and as 
Egypt had by this time come to be considered vital to the safety 
of India, “ the corner-stone of the Empire,” an Egyptian cam¬ 
paign became necessary. 22 

Already the Bombay Government had sent an armed force to 
establish military bases at the mouth of the Red Sea to obstruct 
any possible move of the French toward India by that route. A 
base was first prepared on the island of Perim, but because of the 
unhealthy environment this proved to be a death trap for the 
East India Company’s troops. Within a few months the survivors 
were transferred to Aden on the Arabian coast, though the Gov¬ 
ernment of India considered it unwise to make more than tem¬ 
porary use of the position. 23 In 1801 a combined military and 
naval force came out from India to cooperate with English forces 
which approached from the Mediterranean. Indian troops, land¬ 
ing at various points along the coast of Upper Egypt, moved 
down the Nile Valley with Cairo as their objective. But before 
these forces under Gen. Sir David Baird could effectively employ 
their strength, English contingents under Gen. Sir Ralph Aber- 
cromby had taken Cairo in June and Alexandria in September. 24 

21 General Henri G., Comte Bertrand, Camf agues P&gyfte et de Syria (2 vols., 
Paris, 1847), II5 Hansard, Pari , Hist., XXXIV, 11595 Miot, of. cit., pp. 111—136} 
The French Exfedition into Syria, Comfrising General Buonafartels Letters, etc., 
(2d ed., London, 1799). 

22 Hansard, Pari. Hist., XXXV, 214-216, 587-598, 1436-14445 De Testa, 
of. cit., II, 7-15. 

L O. Records, ut sufra, Vol. 6. This position was destined to come under the 
British flag a generation later, and to remain one of the principal stations on the 
route between England and India traversing the Red Sea. 

24 James, of. cit., Ill, 81—9 5; C. R. Low, History of the Indian Navy, I, 218, 
219; Sir Robert T. Wilson, History of the British Exf edition to Egyft (London, 
*803), pp. 166 £L} u Journal of the English Expedition from India to Egypt,” in 
The Oriental Herald, XV, 235-2485 De Testa, of. cit., II, 31—42. 



BLOWS AT BRITAIN’S “ FEET OF CLAY ” 


61 


These events and the Peace of Amiens brought to ruin the first 
French attempt to reach India in force by one of the shorter 
routes. 

The sequel is not so dramatic, but is of some significance. After 
the disappearance of the French from Egypt, the relations be¬ 
tween the British forces on the one hand and the Egyptians on the 
other soon became strained. The English ideal of a semi¬ 
independent Egypt ruled by the Beys was hotly opposed at Con¬ 
stantinople, where it was hoped that Turkish control of Egypt 
might be greatly increased as a result of the late troubles. The 
upshot of these bickerings was the rise of a new Turkish champion 
in the form of a young Albanian adventurer, Mehemet Ali. His 
allegiance fluctuated as interest dictated. Thus he advanced from 
post to post until in July, 1805, he was strong enough to obtain 
his appointment as Pasha of Egypt. The English had already 
evacuated Egypt in 1803, leaving their affairs in the hands of a 
new “ British Proconsul,” Samuel Briggs. 20 Being thus dis¬ 
engaged, Mehemet Ali proceeded to indulge in an orgy of 
slaughter in which he crushed the power of the Mamelukes, and 
was then free to disclose his friendly sentiments for the French, 
whom he warmly admired. 20 

These events appeared to open Egypt to French influence 
anew. Even in defeat, Bonaparte had not given up his plans for 
making at least a feint at India by employing the route through 
Egypt- 1 802, he had sent Colonel Sebastiani on a tour of in¬ 
spection to Egypt, and upon his return to France, prepared a 
memoir in which he stated his belief that a force of 6000 French 
might take Egypt, even against the English. This, published in 
the Moniteur in 1803, considerably revived French hopes of a 
successful stroke in India, and prompted the sending out of Gen¬ 
eral Decaen to maintain the hopes of Indian rulers in the coming 
of a French army of relief. 27 

The opening of a new Anglo-French conflict in the East oc¬ 
curred not in Egypt but at Constantinople. As the Napoleonic 
wars progressed and the Continental System was instituted, Russia 
was inevitably drawn into the European struggle. The approach 
of a Russian campaign opened for the French the diplomatic 
road to Constantinople, where the Turks were thirsting for re- 

25 I. 0 . Records, ut sufra, Vol. 6. Rosetti reported from Cairo, July 25, 1801, 
that, although he had suffered severely from the French, who knew him to be an 
English agent, he had not heard from London for three years. 

26 Edouard Driault, Mohamed Aly et NafoMon (1807-1814) (Cairo, 1925), 
pp. iii, iv. 

27 Ibid., pp. vi, viij Charles-Roux, of. dt. y p. 3705 De Testa, of. cit I, 504-511. 



6 2 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


venge for the various inroads on Black Sea territories. In 1806, 
the astute Sebastiani was sent as French Ambassador to the Porte, 
taking with him a corps of French officers and diplomats. The 
English attack which this invited occurred in February, 1807, 
when a fleet under Admiral Duckworth undertook to penetrate 
the Dardanelles. This was successfully accomplished, and the 
way was opened to the Golden Horn. However, Sebastiani was 
equal to the situation. Working in feverish haste, he and his 
assistants were able to put the city in such a state of defence and 
to instil such spirit into the Turks, that the English had to retire 
discomfited. 28 

Yet a worse experience awaited in Egypt. Hoping to regain 
the loss of prestige suffered before Constantinople, it was deter¬ 
mined to make an immediate attack on Egypt, where the French 
were suspected of intending to land another army intent on the 
invasion of India. The cordial relations existing between the 
Egyptian dictator, Mehemet Ali, and the French Empire added 
a probability of French success altogether lacking in the expedition 
of 1798. But on this occasion, the English paid a dear price for 
having failed to keep closely in touch with the situation in Egypt. 
Instead of finding Egypt torn with the feuds of rival chieftains, 
they found it a strong centralized monarchy, with the Mamelukes 
cowed and almost powerless. The English forces under Generals 
Wauchope and Meade landed, were outmanoeuvred at Rosetta, 
ignominiously defeated, and either captured or driven to their 
ships. The route through Egypt was decisively closed to the 
British for the time being. 29 

In spite of these disasters to English arms, there was still room 
for consolation. If they were denied the control of Egypt and 
the use of the Red Sea route to India, the French, since the Battle 
of the Nile and particularly since Trafalgar, were denied the use 
of the Mediterranean. The island of Malta, retained by the 
British in defiance of the Peace of Amiens, was not yet a way 
station on routes of eastern communication, but it served ad¬ 
mirably as a naval base, while Gibraltar gave assurance of access 
to the Mediterranean at all times. Thus, in the contest for mas¬ 
tery of the East, it was check and counter-check. It was a question 
of the primacy of land or of water domination. The monarch of 
the land — sovereign of France, master of Spain and Italy, ally 

28 Edouard Driault, La Politique Orientals de Nafoleon , Sebastiani et Gardane 
(Paris, 1904), pp. 89—1105 Priault, La Question d?Orient } defiuis ses Origines jusqida 
Nos Jours (Paris, 1909), p. 85. 

Driault, Mo hawed Aly , pp. viii, 1 5 La P olitique Orientate , pp. 111—122 j Felix 
Mengin, Histoire de PEgypte sous le G 0 wv erneme nt de Mo hammed-Aly (2 vols., 
Paris, 1823), I, 282-300. 



BLOWS AT BRITAIN’S “ FEET OF CLAY ” 63 

of Turkey and sponsor of Egypt, controller of nearly the whole 
shore of the Mediterranean — was unable to place a large force 
in Asia because of land distance and lack of control of intervening 
water routes, while the mistress of the seas was unable adequately 
to protect the approaches to India because of diplomatic and 
political barriers. 

Obviously, the more practicable route for an army of conquest 
in the East was that by way of Egypt, and during his day in power 
Napoleon never abandoned the idea of making use of it. Time 
after time he projected attempts to place a French army in Egypt, 
only to be balked by English watchfulness or crises in Europe. 
In July, 1810, he went so far as to issue a decree for the construc¬ 
tion of a fleet of transports on the Mediterranean. During the 
next two years he worked actjvely on the idea, collecting detailed 
information and making naval preparations. “If in 1812 the 
circumstances are favorable,” he said, “ I count on making an 
expedition to Sicily or to Egypt in the Mediterranean. . . It is 
necessary to have at Toulon all that is necessary for an expedition 
to Egypt.”- And Corfu was made into a French arsenal to rival 
Malta. 3 " Another Battle of the Nile was not unthinkable. 

But all these careful plans miscarried. First, Mehemet Ali 
displayed signs of waning enthusiasm for the French cause as 
their armaments increased and his own territorial ambitions 
waxed. It was by no means certain that his extensive work on 
the fortifications at Alexandria were intended to guard the rear 
of a French movement from Egypt toward India. 31 This the 
French were never to learn. The Russian campaign of 18x2 
proved to be a boomerang, and the disintegration of his elaborate 
European political structure in 1813 and 1814 brought an end to 
Napoleon’s hopes of conquest in the Orient. Mehemet Ali, 
having completed his rise to power in Egypt by the extermination 
of the remaining Mamelukes in 1811, was left to pursue his own 
plans of conquest in Asia by which he became master of Arabia 
and, years later, Syria. 3 " 

Not all of French plans during these years for an invasion of 
India were devoted to the route through Egypt. Careful con¬ 
sideration from the time of the Convention was given to the 
possible ways in which a land power might penetrate the East 

11(0 Driault, Mehemet Aly, p. xxv* Waldemar Ekedahl, u The Principal Causes 
of the Renewal of the War between England and France in 1803,” in Transactions 
of the Royal Historical Society, New Ser., VIII, 181-202. 

31 Driault, Mehemet Aly , pp. xxviii, 120-121, fassim . St. Marcel, special 
French agent in Egypt and Syria, reported in May, 1811, that he was convinced 
that Mehemet Ali desired an alliance with the English. 

32 Ibid., pp. xxx-xxxix, 122-216, fassim ; D. G. Hogarth, The Penetration of 
Arabia (N. Y., 1904), pp. 84—89, 100-106, fassim . 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


64 

without being dependent on a vulnerable line of sea communica¬ 
tions. Much preparatory work, especially of a diplomatic char¬ 
acter, was found to be a prerequisite to any scheme for aggran¬ 
dizement in Asia. The Turks, if they refused to become allies, 
must in any event be kept neutral. Cooperation was necessary 
from the semi-independent chieftains of western Asia. Hence, 
French agents under the Republic circulated freely in Syria, 
Mesopotamia, and even in Arabia. From the establishment of 
the Consulate in 1801 until near the end of the Empire, Napoleon 
kept his emissaries busy in the East collecting data and attempting 
to undermine British prestige in these countries. 33 He did not 
propose to fight his way toward India another time. 

These moves were met by the insertion of diplomatic wedges 
by the British. As early as 1756 it had been proposed to appoint a 
permanent British agent at Bagdad, in view of French interest in 
the Levant. The idea was disapproved by the Court of Directors 
at that time, but a native agent was appointed in 1783. In 1798, 
a year ever memorable because of the French expedition to Egypt, 
an English delegation under Mr. Harford Jones (later Sir Har¬ 
ford Jones Brydges) was sent to Bagdad with the double object 
of arranging with the Pasha for the regular transmission of official 
despatches through his province and to observe and counteract 
the work of French agents who were active in the region at that 
time. Although Jones was not recognized by the Turkish au¬ 
thorities as having any particular powers, he was permitted to 
remain at Bagdad in the capacity of Political Agent of the East 
India Company pending his investment with more definite func¬ 
tions. 34 In 1802 Lord Elgin, then British Ambassador at the 
Porte, was able to secure a consular barat for the Resident at 
Bagdad to avoid possible misunderstandings in future. 33 

On the rupture between England and Turkey in 1807, the 
Pasha of Bagdad took the Residents at Bagdad and Basrah under 
his protection, and they retained their positions. In 1810 the 
Residency at Basrah, which had been established as a consulate in 
17 64, 38 was amalgamated with that at Bagdad. The Resident 
thereafter bore the title of “ Political Agent in Turkish Arabia,” 
and because of his proximity to the Persian frontier he was 
expected to keep an eye on developments in that country as well. 

33 Quarterly Review, XXVI, 445. 

34 I. O. Records, ut supra , Vol. 6, Loose Papers, Packet 11, Bundle i, Nos. 7, S. 

35 Ibid,, No. 16; C. U. Aitchison, Collection of Treaties , Engagements , and 
Sunnuds relating to India and Neighbouring Countries (8 vols., Calcutta, 1876- 
1878), III, 1—45 VII, Pt. I, 8, 9. 

36 An English factory had been established at Basrah before 1640. Various 
political privileges had been accorded the agents here before the establishment of 
the consulate. 



BLOWS AT BRITAIN’S “FEET OF CLAY” 65 

This office was considered a very important one, partly because of 
its relationship to any line of communication to India through 
Mesopotamia, and partly because the Pasha of Bagdad was, to all 
intents and purposes, an independent chieftain. Many of the 
Arabs under his jurisdiction wandered at will across the Turco- 
Persian boundary, recognizing the authority neither of the Sultan 
nor of the Shah. The Resident at Bagdad was, therefore, usually 
a man of wisdom, courage and experience, and many illustrious 
names are connected with that position. Until 1835 these agents 
were responsible to the Bombay Government; but in that year 
their supervision was transferred to the Supreme Government at 
Calcutta. 

In the south of Arabia the beginnings of diplomatic contacts 
had been made in connection with the sending of a naval force 
from India to Egypt in 1799. The expedition which found the 
island of Perim untenable, moved for a time to Aden on the 
Arabian mainland, where they were well received. The Sultan 
of Lahej, who controlled Aden, even proposed a treaty of alliance, 
but this was refused by the Admiral, Sir Home Popham, who did, 
however, promise aid to the Arabs in case of any attack from the 
French. On this basis a Treaty of Friendship was drawn up in 
1802. 37 This was merely a precautionary measure at the time, 
for the permanent connection of the English with Aden dates 
from the establishment of a line of steam navigation between 
Suez and Bombay a generation later. 

At other places along the Arabian coast diplomatic penetration 
began, to be consolidated at later intervals during the century. 
The native agent of the Company at Bushire negotiated the first 
treaty with the Imam of the Muscat Arabs in 1798, providing for 
the expulsion of French agents. Another and supplementary 
treaty was signed in 1800 at the instance of John Malcolm. 
This influence was interrupted by French agents in 1807, but was 
reestablished in 1810.“ Other series of engagements were 
formed about the same time with the semi-nomadic Arabs on 
both sides of the Persian Gulf, most of which were of short 
duration. 39 

After the creation of the French Empire, Napoleon had capable 
agents at work everywhere in Turkey bribing provincial gov¬ 
ernors, subsidizing ministers, and approaching the Sultan with 
alluring promises or subtle threats. Great Britain, on the other 

37 I. O. Records, ut supra , Political Letter from Bombay, 22 Dec., 18015 
Aitchison, op. cit. } VII, 121-134. 

38 Aitchison, op. cit VII, Pt. II, passim . 

39 Low, op. cit., I, Ch, 10. 



66 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


hand, had little to offer except promises of assistance in case of 
attack; but French insinuations frequently caused the Turks to 
wonder whether a French alliance would not be preferable to 
English domination. At the time of the formidable Gardane 
mission to Persia, the French Ambassador at the Porte, Sebastiani, 
as has been mentioned, succeeded in effecting a temporary breach 
between Turkey and Britain, the former being induced to enter the 
u Continental System.” With the addition of Turkey to his list of 
allies, Napoleon had a clear road from the shores of Syria to the 
Punjab for his contemplated Indian enterprise. But this situation 
did not endure. Even before Sir Harford Jones had completed 
the negotiation of the Treaty of Friendship and Alliance with 
Persia (March 12, 1809), articles of peace between Great Britain 
and the Ottoman Empire were signed at the Dardanelles on Janu¬ 
ary 5, 1809. 410 By this agreement, the old Capitulations were re¬ 
affirmed and England was granted most-favored-nation treat¬ 
ment. Following this, largely because of the danger from Russia, 
British diplomacy resumed its sway at the Porte and was not 
seriously endangered for a considerable span of years. This went 
far toward closing the gate, left open for a space of two years, by 
which a European power might have entered Asia intent on 
reaching India. 

Out of these precautions taken against France grew a line of 
regular communication between England and India, now that 
the route through Egypt could no longer be relied on. In 1802 
Lord Elgin was sent to Constantinople as Ambassador to the 
Porte with special instructions to make definite provision for the 
frequent and safe transmission of despatches through Turkish 
dominions, in Europe as well as in Asia. His efforts were 
crowned with success. “ Nothing can exceed the regularity and 
-zeal which your agents at Bagdad, Bussorah, and Aleppo uni¬ 
formly exhibit,” he wrote the Court of Directors of the East 
India Company. “ They have left me nothing to do eastward 
further than showing occasional attentions and sending trifling 
presents to the Governor of their residencies. . . ” 41 From 
Constantinople the new route continued overland through the 
Turkish Balkan provinces by estafette or relays of Turkish 
couriers via Bucharest to Vienna. From there other couriers 
carried the packets through Germany to the North Sea, whence 
they were conveyed to England. “ During my Embassy,” wrote 

40 Aitchison, of. cit. } VII, App. I, iii—xxivj Driault, La Politique Orientate , pp. 
364—370, fassim. 

41 I. O. Records, ut sufra , 12 Feb., 1802. 



BLOWS AT BRITAIN’S “ FEET OF CLAY ” 67 

Elgin in 1806, “ a Tatar was expedited eastward once a fortnight 
as regularly as the Post came in from Vienna. For the most part 
this Tatar took nothing except the European newspapers and my 
letters to the Government in India. . .” ' l2 By this route, which 
closely approximated the line which made the Bagdad Railway 
famous — and dangerous — a century later, communications 
were carried on until after the close of the Napoleonic Wars. 
Strangely enough, the European overland section of this line 
proved to be much more difficult than that in Asia. This was due 
to the frequent uprisings of the Balkan subjects of the Sultan, the 
hordes of brigands, and the constant tampering with the mails by 
officials of the various countries through which the line passed. 48 
Despatches sent by this line were generally of the utmost im¬ 
portance and secrecy, and the English public never became aware 
of the extent to which the line was used. 

Motives similar to those which led to the beginnings of dip¬ 
lomatic relations with the Ottoman Empire also suggested bring¬ 
ing other states into line. In 1808 Mr. Mountstuart Elphinstone, 
later Governor of the Bombay Presidency, concluded a treaty of 
alliance with Shah Shujah of the Dooranee (Afghan) Empire 
with the object of preventing the threatened invasion of Af¬ 
ghanistan and India from the west. This treaty, which.was rati¬ 
fied by Lord Minto on June, 17, 1809, guaranteed assistance to 
Shah Shujah only in case of a joint attack by French and 
Persians. 44 

Diplomatic overtures were likewise made to Persia. .This 
country offered a good field for diplomatic operations early in the 
nineteenth century, not only because it laid claim to lower Meso¬ 
potamia and lay athwart some of the lines of access to India, but 
also because of its receptive attitude toward western advances. 
Ordinarily averse from European influences, the Persian Court 
was then desperately eager to establish cordial relations with any 
state which might assist in checking dismemberment by Russia. 

The English, suspicious of the designs of both France and 
Russia, were the first to appear on the scene in diplomatic force. 
In December, 1799, while excitement'still ran high throughout 
the British world over the invasion of Egypt, a formidable em¬ 
bassy headed by Captain John Malcolm left Bombay for the 
Persian Gulf, en route to Teheran. The mission had several 
objects connected with the safety and the trade of India, but the 

42 Ibid., Elgin to the East India Company, n Aug., 1806. 

43 I. O. Records, ut supra , Nos. 2, 10; Barker, op. tit., I, 55; 96. 

44 Aitchison, op. tit., II, 4 2 4 * 



68 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


chief one was the desire “ to counteract the possible attempts of 
those villanous but active democrats, the French.” 45 Persia at 
that time was virgin soil in the diplomatic sense, and there was 
considerable doubt in the minds of the envoys what attitude and 
what course to pursue to avoid wounding oriental susceptibilities 
on the one hand while maintaining British prestige on the other. 
After some preliminary sparring with Persian officials at Bushire, 
Malcolm concluded that the two great essentials in dealing with 
the Persians lay in the munificent distribution of presents and in 
stickling for forms. Both of these points contributed to vexatious 
delays, the Persian officials bargaining for all the tips which the 
situation would bear while they grudgingly gave the required 
formal and somewhat ostentatious reception. 

Nevertheless, Malcolm was well received at Teheran, partly 
because of the very prodigality of his gifts, which were in pro¬ 
portion to the estimated gravity of the situation. At the same 
time, he found that the effect of French successes in Europe and 
of Bonaparte’s daring plunge into Egypt was working its magic in 
Persia. He wrote to a friend, “ . . . the nature of my situation 
requires me to be very cautious. . . Those rascals, the French, 
will persuade the Turks that they are their best friends before 
they have done; and if they succeed in establishing themselves in 
Egypt on any terms, we must look to every quarter, and to none 
with more care than to the Persian Gulf.” 46 

Although Malcolm was received by the Shah with marks of 
consideration, his work moved slowly forward because he under¬ 
took to bribe every one into acquiescence. At last, however, po¬ 
litical and commercial treaties were drawn up and agreed to which 
appeared to be all that Britain could ask. The Persians were to 
assist in protecting the northwest frontier of India in return for 
British assistance in case of attack on Persia; there were strong 
provisions for the expulsion and “ extirpation ” of French subjects 
in Persia, and British merchants were granted extensive trading 
privileges. 47 These treaties were never formally ratified on either 
side, but firmans were issued by the Shah and like orders by the 
Governor-General of India declaring them to be in force. 

Having thus apparently succeeded in its main objects, the 
British Embassy prepared to return to India. Malcolm carefully 
avoided giving any explicit guarantees that British aid would be 
forthcoming in the struggle against Russia. Vague assurances 

45 Malcolm’s instructions are given in J. W, Kaye, The Life and Correspondence 
of Major-General Sir John Malcolm . . . (2 vols., London, 1856), I, 30, 89. 

46 Ibid., I, 128. 

47 Ibid., I, 515-525; Herts let's Commercial Treaties, VIII, 659-662. Cf. 
Sir Percy Sykes, A History of Persia (2 vols., London, 1921), II, 398-399. 



BLOWS AT BRITAIN’S “ FEET OF CLAY ” 69 

were given, however, that Great Britain would naturally not per¬ 
mit her Persian ally to be despoiled, and with these veiled 
promises, on which any Persian support and cooperation depended, 
the British delegation withdrew to India. 

For more than two years thereafter, the Russians steadily con¬ 
tinued their attacks, while the Persian Government appealed to 
Britain for help in vain. The French meanwhile kept in touch 
with the Persian situation through their efficient network of con¬ 
suls, merchants, and spies, and waited for an opportune moment to 
serve their cause.' 1S In 1805 a formal Persian mission reached 
Calcutta hoping to arrange for active assistance on the basis of 
earlier promises. Although the Indian Government maintained 
rather frequent communications with Great Britain by the then 
overland route, considerable procrastination ensued. So as weeks 
passed with no sign of favorable action either in India or in Eng¬ 
land, Feth Ali Shah, “ considering the effect on the Orient of 
Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt,” felt obliged to seek French aid. 49 

War had already broken out between France and Russia, pladjng 
Persia in a very strategic position, and greatly increasing the 
significance attached by Persia to French promises. Immediately 
upon receiving word concerning the Persian change of heart, 
Napoleon despatched two agents to make hasty preliminary in¬ 
vestigations, before committing himself wholly to any line of 
conduct. One of these, M. Amedee Jaubert, was sent out pri¬ 
marily with a view to opening negotiations for an alliance with 
the Sultan. This came to an end so summarily — due to British 
dominance at the Porte — that it nearly involved France and 
Turkey in hostilities. Quitting Constantinople, Jaubert made his 
way under an assumed name toward Persia. He had been pre¬ 
ceded, however, by another diplomatic agent, M. Romieu, who, 
with his secretary, managed to reach Persia, having with difficulty 
passed through Asiatic Turkey in disguise. Their disguise had 
not been so perfect as to deceive the English consul at Aleppo, 
John Barker, 50 who immediately reported his discovery to Har¬ 
ford Jones, British consular agent at Bagdad. The latter’s watch¬ 
fulness and his influence in Mesopotamia nearly brought an un¬ 
timely end to the French mission. 

48 Le Cte. Alfred de Gardane, Mission du General Gardane en Perse , sous le 
Premier Empire . Documents historiques. . . (Paris, 1865), pp. 9, 10$ Driault, 
Mohamed Aly et Napoleon , pp. 91-92, 1195 Kaye, op. cit. y I, 396, 

49 Gardane, op. cit., p. 13 j Sykes, op. cit. } II, 40, 399-401. 

G0 Gardane, op. cit. y p. 18. Barker was a stern enemy of all French activities. 
As English consul in Syria and in Egypt for the next third of a century he had many 
opportunities to check French enterprise and to promote speedy communications 
between India and the mother country for political reasons. 



70 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


Romieu was well received at the Persian capital, and he, like 
Jaubert, who arrived in 1806, reported very favorably on the 
opportunity for the extension of French interests since Feth Ali 
desired an alliance with France. This attitude of the Persian 
Court was carefully fostered by French agents during 1806 and 
the early months of 1807, until Napoleon, having mastered cen¬ 
tral Europe, could devote more attention to his oriental plans. 
In February, 1807, the Russian Government offered favorable 
terms of peace to Persia, which, in view of French promises of 
assistance, were refused. A Persian envoy was thereupon sent 
with all haste to conclude a formal alliance with Napoleon before 
a short truce with Russia should expire. The Persian envoy found 
Napoleon in camp at Finkenstein, where he was courteously 
received and asked to await the drawing up of a treaty. 51 

Before this draft was ready, Napoleon had responded to the 
invitation to open diplomatic relations with Persia. He deter¬ 
mined at the outset to impress the oriental mind with a suggestion 
of illimitable power, and to this end he selected a formidable 
delegation of seventy picked men to undertake a kind of-pioneer¬ 
ing mission. The ground was to be prepared for a possible 
Franco-Persian invasion of India, hence various treaties were to 
be drafted and surveys of many kinds carried out. Napoleon’s 
instructions to General Gardane, the head of the mission, go far 
toward explaining why British attitude toward the states of 
western Asia suddenly underwent a change. These ran, in part: 

Persia is today squeezed in between Russia and the Eng¬ 
lish possessions. The nearer these possessions approach the 
Persian frontier, the more she [Persia] must fear the even¬ 
tual aggrandizement of them: she will be in danger of 
becoming some day, as northern India, an English province, 
if from now on she does not anticipate the danger, to injure 
England, and to aid against her all the operations of the 
French. . . 

Persia is considered by France from two points of view: 
as the natural enemy of Russia and as a means of passage for 
an expedition to India. . . 

Let us suppose . . . that the French expedition, with the 
consent of the Porte, should land at Alexandretta, or that it 
should round the Cape of Good Hope and land at the en¬ 
trance to the Persian Gulf. . . It must be known in both 
cases what would be the route from the landing place to 
India. . . 

51 Gardane, pp. 19-255 Driault, La Politique Orientate , pp. 172—177. 



BLOWS AT BRITAIN’S “ FEET OF CLAY ” 71 

In fine, General Gardane must not lose sight of the fact 
that our important task is to establish a triple alliance between 
France, the Porte, and Persia, to open for us a road to India 
and to procure for us help against Russia. . . 52 

Gardane and his party having been despatched for the East 
with important duties and extensive powers, Napoleon proceeded 
to complete the treaty of alliance with Persia. This, the Treaty 
of Finkenstein, was concluded on May 30, T807, and is a monu¬ 
ment to the self-interest of the Emperor of the French. Accord¬ 
ing to this document, Persia was to declare war on England im¬ 
mediately, to expel all the English from the country and allow 
none to enter again, to unite with the Afghans, Mahrattas, and 
other Indian peoples for a march on English Indian holdings, 
and in every way to assist a French army to march through the 
country in case of a French expedition against the English in 
India. The obligations of Persia were stated precisely, inclu¬ 
sively, and in considerable detail. The obligations of France, on 
the other hand, were vaguely worded and stated only in brief, 
general terms. In substance, France recognized the validity of 
Persia’s claim to Georgia, which had been annexed by Russia in 
x 800, and undertook to supply as many cannon, rifles, officers, and 
workmen as Persia should need in maintaining her territorial 
integrity. 63 

The Treaty of Finkenstein had hardly been completed and a 
copy despatched for the approval of the Shah when events in 
Europe altered its whole bearing. In June, 1807, occurred the 
decisive battle of Friedland, in which the Russians were routed. 
Tsar Alexander thereupon sued for peace, and negotiations were 
conducted by the two Emperors in person at Tilsit. According 
to the arrangements adopted at this important conference, Na¬ 
poleon was to have a free hand, so to speak, in Europe, and 
Alexander like privileges in Asia. Both were to consider Britain 
their chief enemy. 64 This was a natural and almost inevitable 
arrangement, based on the natural spheres of interest of the two 
powers. Thus, Napoleon sacrificed Asiatic connections for Euro¬ 
pean policy, undermined his connections with Persia since he could 

02 Driault, La Politique Orientate , pp. 183, 184; Gardane, of. cit.> pp, 16-25, 
82—94, Gardane was chosen to head the mission because he was well known in the 
commercial ports of the Levant and in Persia, where members of his family had 
long held consular positions* 

53 The Treaty is given in Gardane, of. cit pp. 71-81, See fedouard Driault, 
La Politique Orientate , pp, 170—1735 Sykes, of. cit. y II, 402—405. 

04 A. Vandal, PIaf ole on et Alexandre I er (3 vols., Paris, 1891-1896), I, 
Appendix 5 Driault, La Politique Orientate , pp. 19 7-214. 



72 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


no longer assist against Russia, and thereafter used Persia as a 
pawn to keep Britain at bay as long as possible. These events, 
however, were not known and understood in Persia for many 
months. 55 

Gardane proceeded to act on his instructions at first in ignorance 
of and later without regard to the Treaty of Tilsit. He was kept 
very poorly informed of developments in Europe, probably for 
good reason. He negotiated a favorable commercial treaty, pre¬ 
pared maps, supervised surveys, survived many delicate diplo¬ 
matic difficulties, and invented most ingenious excuses to explain 
the non-arrival of arms, munitions, and training officers from 
France at a time when he was as ignorant as the Persians them¬ 
selves as to the causes of the non-execution of French engage¬ 
ments. 56 Thus the year 1807 passed and 1808 dragged along 
with Persia and Russia still at odds. The instructions which 
reached Gardane at long intervals indicated a changed attitude 
on the part of the Emperor — one which encouraged the conclu¬ 
sion of a Russo-Persian peace on the basis of Persian concessions. 
However, England was still pictured to the Persian Court as the 
universal enemy and Napoleonic France as the champion of 
justice. 57 

Gardane, meanwhile, retained faith in the genuineness of the 
Franco-Persian alliance. He supported the Persian Government 
in refusing to make terms with Russia on the basis of the cession to 
the latter of the provinces of Georgia, Erivan, and the Trois 
Eglises. He even believed that the demands made on several oc¬ 
casions by the Russian field commander, General Goudowitsch, 
that the Persian Government treat with him directly, were unau¬ 
thorized by the Russian Government and contrary to the wishes of 
the Emperor Napoleon. On October 12, Gardane wrote General 
Goudowitsch that if certain confidential representations he had 
previously made, to the effect that the Russo-Persian boundary 
difficulty would undoubtedly be settled in Paris, were flouted by 
the Russian high command, “ it is my duty officially to announce to 
you that Persia, being allied with the Emperor [Napoleon], and 
the integrity of the territory your troops are occupying having been 
guaranteed by the Emperor, I shall regard all attacks against this 
territory as a provocation against my august court.” 58 This 

55 Napoleon undoubtedly considered this arrangement, by 'which Russia entered 
his “Continental System” against Britain, as a convenient substitute for his pro¬ 
jected invasion of India. Gardane stated positively to the Shah in February, 1808, 
that nothing had been stipulated at Tilsit relative to Persia because the treaty of 
alliance (Finkenstein) had not then been ratified by Persia. 

68 Gardane, of. cit., pp. 107—138. 

57 Ibid., pp. 146-14.7; Driault, La Politique Orientate, pp. 310-322. 

88 Gardane, of. cit., pp. 203-206. 



BLOWS AT BRITAIN’S “ FEET OF CLAY ” 73 

threat Goudowitsch considered of such small importance that he 
ignored it altogether, aware, no doubt, that Gardane was being 
used as a dupe and that he himself was much better informed on 
conditions in Europe than was the chief of the French mission. 

Hence, but a few months after Napoleon had regaled his ally, 
the Shah, with a glowing account of how the world was arming to 
avenge themselves on the English, Goudowitsch was brutally 
demanding “ for the last time ” the cession of choice Persian 
territories, with the simple justification that “ the power which 
the Russian Government has acquired by force of arms gives it the 
right to those boundaries which it pleases to have.” And he must 
needs taunt the Persians with their own helpless isolation and the 
fact that a hostile British force had arrived in the Persian Gulf 
to begin an offensive in which the Pasha of Bagdad threatened to 
take part/' 11 

These developments shocked and frightened the credulous 
Persians. Gardane was summoned before the Shah to explain 
Napoleon’s strange neglect and to state whether the French 
could be relied upon for assistance. To this Gardane could only 
reply that in a situation so desperate for the Persians, he could 
not advise them to undertake a war on the two extremities of 
their Empire, but that if the English were admitted to Persia as 
friends he must needs sever French relations. 00 This he was 
presently compelled to do as the English made headway. By 
November, 1808, Gardane found his popularity and prestige gone. 
Without any reply from France in response to frantic appeals for 
instructions, he and his suite had no choice but to withdraw from 
Persia as an English embassy under Harford Jones approached 
Teheran from the Persian Gulf. 01 

With the withdrawal of Gardane vanished the last serious 
threat France was to make of invading India by land. There is, 
of course, no proof that Napoleon seriously contemplated making 
use of the road through Persia at any time, although his actions 
prior to the Treaty of Tilsit would seem to show such an intent. 62 
But after the British rupture with Turkey in 1807 an d the con¬ 
fidential reports of French agents on conditions in Egypt, he 
inclined in favor of his original plan of attack, which was to 

59 Ibid. } pp. 199-2043 Driault, La Politique Orientale } pp. 325-334. 

60 Gardane, op. ck pp, 235-244, passim; Driault, La Politique Orientate, p. 323. 

61 Gardane, of. ck ,, pp. 252-2535 Driault, La Politique Orientate , pp. 336-339. 
Although beginning to fear that he might have been betrayed, Gardane retained a 
high regard of the importance of his mission to the last, and in his final communica¬ 
tion to the Emperor from Persian soil he urged a quick invasion of India by the 
route he had surveyed. 

62 Gardane, op. cit., pp. 33-34) 1085 Driault, La Question d'Orient , pp. 94-95> 
La Politique Orientate , pp. 341-342. 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


74 

proceed through Egypt. The cloak dropped in Persia by France 
was taken up by Russia, which Power, with much less pomp 
and fanfare but with infinitely more subtle scheming, patience, 
and purposefulness, more nearly succeeded in placing its armies on 
the southern slopes of the Himalayas than Napoleon probably 
could have, had all of his preparations been acted upon. 

Although the Government of India had expressed alarm, 
the British Cabinet had been slow to comprehend the full mean¬ 
ing of the French mission in Persia where Malcolm had been so 
successful not long before. The complete breakdown of the 
French Egyptian enterprise had conduced to a temporary feeling 
of security as far as eastern matters were concerned. By the end 
of the year 1806, however, some anxiety was being manifested in 
London at the rapid growth of French influence at various points 
in Asia. This was considerably stimulated by a report made by 
Malcolm in November to the Governor-General of India, the 
substance of which was transmitted to the Home Government. 

If the war between Russia and France [he said] has ter¬ 
minated in a manner favorable to the interests of the latter, 

. . . Turkey can only be considered hereafter as a province 
of the French Government, and under such circumstances, 
British India will be exposed to a danger which will require 
every measure of preventative policy to avert. . . 

I have learnt from respectable authority that almost all 
the provinces of Turkey are already inundated with French 
officers, and when the war with Russia is over, it is evident 
that Bonaparte can spare any number of troops to aid in the 
support, or rather, restoration of the tottering power of the 
Ottomans. The probable first employment of such a force 
would be the reduction ... of the most rebellious prov¬ 
inces of the [Turkish] Empire, among which may be num¬ 
bered Egypt, Syria, and Bagdad 5 and if that service is ever 
effected by the aid of a French force, we must anticipate the 
actual establishment of the influence and power of that nation 
over countries subdued, which would give it an advanced and 
advantageous position from whence it could carry on 
intrigues and operations against the British power in 
India. . . 63 

Similar reports from other quarters increased the disquietude. 
In consequence, upon the successful completion of the French 

63 Kaye, of. cit., I, 395-398. 



BLOWS AT BRITAIN’S “ FEET OF CLAY ” 


75 

campaign against Russia in 1807, steps were immediately taken 
by the British to send a delegation to Persia, backed by a show of 
naval strength, to oust the French and renew English engage- 
ments. ,: 1 The initiative in this was taken by the Government of 
India, which recommended to the Home Government and to the 
Court of Directors of the Company that Captain John Malcolm 
again be sent to Persia as special ambassador. The Home authori¬ 
ties did not countenance this suggestion, being mindful of 
Malcolm’s unnecessary extravagance on his first mission. Instead, 
the choice fell on Harford Jones as one whose long experience in 
the East and whose natural caution would give him peculiar 
fitness for counteracting French influence and negotiating a new 
treaty with the Shah. Early in 1808, therefore, Jones and his 
staff, armed with suitable presents and rather general instructions 
set out from England for the Persian Gulf by way of the Cape 
of Good Hope and Bombay. 05 

The renewal of British contacts with Persia was complicated 
by the fact that the Government of India, on behalf of the East 
India Company, though often acting on its own responsibility in 
the absence of definite instructions, assumed a considerable degree 
of responsibility for the political situation in those states lying 
near India. For both political and commercial reasons, the Indian 
Government was unwilling to have the British Government nego¬ 
tiate directly with these states, which would naturally have a 
tendency to dim the prestige which had grown up about the name 
of the Company as an autocratic, imperial authority in itself. In 
the Persian question, therefore, the Governor-General, Lord 
M'into, took the responsibility upon his own office to regain at the 
Persian Court the hegemony which had been usurped by the 
French. Finding the Home Government not disposed to act 
through the Company’s agency on this occasion, Lord Minto con¬ 
ceived the idea of anticipating the Home authorities, who were 
notoriously slow in such matters, and thus increasing the Com¬ 
pany’s influence both in Asia and in England. 66 

For this purpose, Malcolm was appointed a commissioner of 
the Government of India early in 1808, with powers of a general 
and not well defined character, and was instructed to hold him¬ 
self in readiness to depart from India for Persian shores at any 
moment. He presently proceeded from Calcutta to the Persian 
Gulf by way of Bombay, which, because of its favorable bearing, 
was used as a base for all of the operations in Persia during this 

64 Hon. George N. Curzon, Persia and the Persian Question, I, 576-577 j Kaye, 
°t * cit., I, 397, 398, 413-426. 

65 Kaye, of. cit I, 401—402. 60 Ibid., I, 4x0, 411. 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


76 

period. Malcolm’s ship Psyche, supported by a strong squadron, 
arrived at Bushire on May 10, and a Captain Pasley, who had 
previously spent several years in Persia as an informer, was de¬ 
puted to proceed toward Teheran and arrange for Malcolm’s 
reception at Court. 

The French were still too strong at this time, however^ and 
Malcolm was refused permission to come to the capital. At the 
same time the Shah and most of his ministers made no secret of 
their desire to learn what the English had to offer, and Malcolm 
was invited to treat with the Prince Regent of the province of 
Fars before any official reception was given him by the Persian 
Government. To this proposal Malcolm replied hotly that while 
a French Ambassador was given constant recognition at the Per¬ 
sian Court, a representative of the British Nation could never 
condescend to treat with a provincial chief 5 that further, unless 
he were permitted to state his mission at Teheran in the presence 
of the Shah, he would at once terminate his visit, embark for 
India, and never return to Persian soil unless accorded all the 
dignity and honor which had been given him on the occasion of his 
first mission. 67 

For assuming this tone of hauteur, which he described as one 
of “ temperate remonstrance and offended friendship,” Malcolm 
has been severely criticised on several occasions. 08 His biographer, 
Kaye, even ascribes the failure of the mission to this attitude. It 
is possible, however, that it served the purpose intended. Mal¬ 
colm could hardly have been admitted to Court as long as the 
Persian Government retained hope of receiving the promised aid 
from France, in any case. By his uncompromising demands and 
proud demeanor Malcolm believed that he had contributed much 
to the Persian distrust of French power of which signs were 
already appearing. 

After having spent several weeks in fruitless negotiation and 
intrigue, Malcolm, “ to the utter consternation of the populace,” 
made good his threat to return to India. 00 The causes of his 
failure were reviewed at Calcutta and new plans put on foot to 
maintain the honor of Britain and the glory of the East India 
Company. One of these was a plan to seize and garrison the 
island of Karrack, lying close to the Persian shore. This island 

67 Kaye, of. cit ., 416-418. 

68 Indeed, Lord Minto himself was displeased at the arrogant speech used by 
Malcolm on this occasion. 

69 The mercantile class living along the shores of the Persian Gulf were gen¬ 
erally strongly pro-British, chiefly because of the protection given by the Bombay 
Marine to their trading vessels. Besides, they were so far removed from Teheran 
as to have little sympathy with the policies and intrigues of the Court. 



BLOWS AT BRITAIN’S “ FEET OF CLAY ’’ 


77 

had been promised to France by the Treaty of Finkenstein; and 
as it had been considered as a suitable base for a Franco-Persian 
invasion of India, now it was proposed to employ it to offset the 
intrigues of French agents among the chiefs of lower Arabia and 
Persia and to thwart any attempts at the invasion of India. The 
commercial value of the island was not overlooked, nor the fact 
that it was so situated as to facilitate actual military operations in 
Persia should the French menace continue. Arrangements for an 
expedition to Karrack were well under way, when at the end of 
September, 1808, word arrived that Sir Harford Jones had ac¬ 
tually arrived in the Persian Gulf preparatory to opening nego¬ 
tiations with the Shah. 

In this dilemma, Lord Minto was compelled to proceed with 
caution. The expedition to Karrack was necessarily suspended, 
for, as he said, “ We cannot commit hostilities on Persia while 
the King of England is negotiating with the King of Persia.” 70 
To save his amour propre, the Governor-General took the “ sour- 
grapes ” view that the island would not be particularly desirable, 
and that fhe French could hardly have used it, in any event. 
Malcolm was instructed to observe the progress of the imperial 
mission from the vantage point of Bombay and to bide his time. 
As soon as Sir Harford had accomplished the principal objects of 
his mission, including the formation of a preliminary treaty be¬ 
tween Great Britain and Persia, Malcolm was despatched to 
Teheran at the head of a new mission to raise the fallen crest of 
the Government of India. 71 At Bushire he received a cordial wel¬ 
come, both from residents and from Persian officials who extended 
a polite and formal invitation for him to visit the capital. The 
English-Indian party made very leisurely progress toward the 
Persian capital, allowing ample time for the Court to prepare a 
suitable reception. The situation was full of unpleasant possibil¬ 
ities, however, for Malcolm insisted that he must be received by 
Sir Harford Jones as an equal and as the representative of a 
government whose interests in Persian welfare were second to 
none. At first this concession was refused by Sir Harford, who 
had received a number of “ stinging ” letters from the Governor- 
General since his arrival in Persia. Malcolm, thereupon, pre¬ 
pared to withdraw without approaching Teheran 5 but Sir Har¬ 
ford, rather than compromise his own position by an open break 
with Malcolm, who was personally very popular with the Persian 
Court, relented, and Malcolm and his entourage arrived in the 
presence of the Shah on June 21. 72 

70 Kaye, of. cit., I, 4.37, 438. 

72 Ibid., II, 1-22. 


71 Ibid., I, 507-511, fassbn. 



78 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


Thus, Britain was represented on Persian soil by two distinct 
and obviously rival missions, one coming from England intent 
on the undoing of France; and the other hailing from India to 
make provision for checking the further advance of Russia. Both 
had power to negotiate treaties. The Persian Court, already dis¬ 
tracted by French promises and Russian threats, now found itself 
truly between the horns of a dilemma. Any offending of the 
British Ambassador would likely deprive Persia of military and 
diplomatic assistance in Europe, while the seizure of strategic 
positions along the Persian coast was probable if the Indian mis¬ 
sion were not accorded due honor. The Persians temporized by 
officially acknowledging both delegations, and instead of playing 
the prejudices of one diplomatic envoy against the other, the way 
was made easy for a rapprochement between the two. After 
considerable sparring, Jones and Malcolm were able to arrange a 
modus vivendi much to their own credit and the relief of the 
Persians. 

Although the prestige of the Indian Government undoubtedly 
was increased by Malcolm’s third mission, his efforts otherwise 
were largely barren of results. In July, 1809, despatches from 
England announced the intention of the British Government to 
assume charge of all relations with Persia thereafter, thus greatly 
limiting the political sphere of the Company’s operations and 
making of Malcolm’s embassy an expensive gesture. 73 Sir Har¬ 
ford Jones retired in 18 x x, but until the close of the Napoleonic 
Wars the relations between Britain and Persia were direct and 
close. 74 Meanwhile, Persia was content to remain practically a 
ward of Great Britain. Some of the officers of the Indian political 
mission remained to train Persian troops and give technical advice 
and even to take active part in the struggle which still continued 
with Russia. 

_ The preliminary treaty of peace and friendship negotiated by 
Sir Harford Jones in 1809 sufficed to define the relations between 
Britain and Persia meanwhile, and supplied the foundation for 
most of the subsequent engagements of the two states. Its con¬ 
cern for the protection of routes of access to India appeared in 
every article of the document. In fine, Persia was to make no 
engagements hostile to British interests and was expressly to 
prevent any European force from passing through Persia toward 

78 Malcolm was censured by the Bengal Government for his lavish expenditures, 
but he insisted that his mission could not have been carried out without them. Kaye 
writes, “ I have always thought that this mission was unnecessary ... it may be 
questioned whether the re-elevation of the fallen majesty of the Indian Government 
was worth the expenditure bestowed upon it.” — Ibtd. } II, 50. 

74 Sykes, of . cit., II, 407. 



BLOWS AT BRITAIN’S “ FEET OF CLAY ” 


79 

India. In return, Great Britain gave pledges similar to those 
offered earlier by the French. Persia was to be protected against 
invasion from any quarter, was to be supplied with arms and 
military forces for defensive purposes, and was to be subsidized 
materially.'" 

This agreement was made into a formal, definitive treaty, 
signed on November 25, 1814.™ The provisions were largely 
the same as in the previous document, the main feature being the 
precaution against armies hostile to Great Britain which might 
march across Persia toward India. The Persian subsidy was here 
fixed at £150,000, and was to continue until Persia engaged in 
an aggressive war. 7T By these measures, a substantial part of the 
land passage between eastern Europe and the frontiers of India 
was made safe for Great Britain until changing conditions and 
shifting alliances in Europe placed Anglo-Persian interests, and 
hence their policies, on a different basis. 

Although political activity in the Near and Middle East de¬ 
clined considerably after the exile of Napoleon to St. Helena, the 
late events' in Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia had done 
much to destroy British confidence in the adequacy of the Cape 
route to India. Englishmen had been loath to believe such reports 
as they heard during the latter part of the eighteenth century that 
the French were actually contemplating the conquest and occupa¬ 
tion of Egypt largely because of the strategic value of that posi¬ 
tion, but the well planned expedition of 1798 and later persistent 
efforts on the part of both France and Russia to acquire control 
of one or another of the shorter routes by which the feet of clay 
of the British colossus might be shattered taught thorough lessons. 
These events ushered in a century in which the protection, de¬ 
velopment, and control of the approaches to India and other pos¬ 
sessions in the East were to rank among the leading enterprises 
of the British people. 

75 British ami Foreign State Papers, I, 258-261. Cf. Curzon, op. cit., I, 576-7. 

70 Brit, and For. St. Pap., I, 261-266? Victor Fontanier, Voyage dans PInde, 
II, 199, 200, 419. The actual work of drawing up both treaties is ascribed by 
Fontanier to James Morier, one of Sir Harford Jones’ suite and “ a more clever man 
than his colleagues.” See Sykes, op. cit., II, 407-409. 

77 By a subsequent arrangement this subsidy was paid to Russia in lieu of an 
indemnity imposed on Persia in 1813. Britain began to consider it quite as much 
to her own as to Persia’s interests to prevent further Russian aggression southward. 
— Martens et Cussy, Recueil des Brakes. . . (7 vols., Leipzig, 1846), II, 399. 



CHAPTER IV 


STEAM AND THE ALL-SEA ROUTE TO INDIA 

U PON the return to England in 1594 of Captain James 
Lancaster’s ship Bonaventure, freighted with the riches 
of plundered Portuguese and Arabian vessels, English 
interest quickly shifted from the Mediterranean' to the newly 
tried channel to the Far East around the tip of Africa. Competi¬ 
tion was keen and the dangers were many in the Mediterranean. 
Captain Lancaster’s exploit supplied evidence that while the dan¬ 
gers of a long voyage to the lands opened up by the Portuguese 
were many times greater, the opportunities for great wealth from 
successful voyages were almost unlimited. The chartering of the 
East India Company on December 31, 1600, and the raising of an 
initial capital of £68,323, committed the leading merchants ad¬ 
venturers of the time to a new policy of trade with the East 
depending wholly on the passage around the Cape of Good Hope. 1 

During the greater part of the next three centuries, the Cape 
route was employed without thought of the possibility of the 
development of other channels to India and the Far East either 
for trade or for communication. Even the activities of the French 
in Egypt and the occasional sending of special despatches through 
Syria to the Persian Gulf late in the eighteenth century detracted 
little from the feeling of reliance on the all-sea route, which had 
long since become a highway dominated by English ships and 
marked by English way stations. By the middle of the seven¬ 
teenth century a special type of vessel had been devised for the 
India trade — the early East Indiaman. With the growth of 
seafaring experience and volume of trade, vessels of this type 
tended to increase in size, though not, as in the case of the Por¬ 
tuguese galleons, at the expense of navigability. 2 By 1700 some 

1 EL G. Rawlinson, British Beginnings in Western India , 1579-1657, pp. 36-37. 

2 The vessels developed by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century became at last 
veritable floating fortresses, exceedingly clumsy and unmanageable, as were the 
Spanish war vessels at the time of the Great Armada. Portuguese galleons disap¬ 
peared from the Indian seas for much the same reason as the Irish elk became extinct 
from the increasing weight of his once useful antlers. 

80 



STEAM AND THE ALL-SEA ROUTE TO INDIA 81 


of the largest were of nearly 500 tons burden, though during the 
the next three quarters of a century they grew little because of 
special obligations imposed by law on larger vessels. After the 
beginning of the Industrial Revolution the growth in size was 
rapid, and by 1800 the Company had several ships chartered for 
1200 tons. By this time, “ the East Indiamen were the largest, 
best built, and most powerfully armed vessels in the world, with 
the exception only of some warships.” 3 

At the beginning of the seventeenth century there was little 
difference in construction between a ship of war and a merchant¬ 
man. But within a century the exigencies of war on the high seas 
had contributed to the development of certain types of naval 
vessels, swift in speed and capable of carrying heavy armaments. 
The East Indiamen, because of the many dangers to which they 
were constantly exposed from recognized enemies and pirates, 
quite naturally came to display many similarities to the frigates 
of the Royal Navy. Inasmuch as the former were built less for 
speed and more for cargo carrying, they were somewhat slower 
in speed a’nd deeper in draught than their naval contemporaries. 
The Hope, a typical Company’s vessel of the better class at the 
beginning of the nineteenth century, measured 1480 tons, was 
200 feet long and of 40-foot beam. 4 Vessels of this type represent 
almost the highest form of sailing vessel ever developed. Only 
the clipper ship of the eighteen forties excelled in speed and 
seaworthiness, and these advantages were gained at the sacrifice 
of cargo-carrying capacity. 

Indeed, the rigors of the Cape route to the East produced in 
the later East Indiamen noble vessels. Built of English oak, elm, 
and India teak, copper-fastened throughout, they were stanch and 
long-lived. For their day they were luxurious in appointments, 
providing comforts and luxuries for passengers and crew which 
were not dreamed of in the early days of the Company’s activities. 
Until the nineteenth century was well advanced and the merchant 
marine of the Company was suffered to decline because of the loss 
of trading monopolies, no steamship could vie with the vessels 
of the East India fleet either in safety or comfort. It is little 
wonder that the early steamship made way with difficulty and that 
few officers either of the naval or merchant services were willing 
to serve on steam vessels during the first half of the nineteenth 
century. 

All the comforts and the elements of safety devised for the 

3 E. Keble Chatterton, The Old East Indiamen (London, 1914), p. 4. 

4 James Wathen, Journal of a Voyage to Madras and China in 1811 and 1812 
(London, 18x4), p. 5. 



82 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


voyage to India, however, did little to shorten its duration. At 
the very least, many weeks were required from the time of the 
taking on of passengers at the ports of the Downs or at Portsmouth 
to the first landfall off the coast of Ceylon or southern India. As 
late as 1825, by which time the old East Indiamen were approach¬ 
ing their highest stage of development, from five to eight months 
were required to transmit messages from the Court of Directors 
of the East India Company in London to the Governor-General 
at Calcutta, and replies were frequently not received within a 
period of two years. 5 Outfits of clothing for children making 
the passage had to take into consideration the probability of con¬ 
siderable growth between departure and arrival. 0 Wars in Europe 
frequently were terminated and settlements made long before 
the fighting in India and adjacent waters, which reflected Eu¬ 
ropean rivalries, had ceased. 

It is difficult nowadays to realize the many difficulties and 
problems of such long voyages, even with the accumulated ex¬ 
perience of two centuries as guide. The food supply was not one 
of the least of these, when, as was often the case, the number of 
mouths of passengers, officers, and crew numbered two or three 
hundred. As salt and preserved foods would not suffice for so 
long a voyage, fresh food, as to meats, was carried alive. On one 
voyage the Hope, previously referred to, carried — 

. . . One cow, 50 Southdown sheep, 71 porkers, and more 
than 6 00 geese, ducks, and fowls. The cow and sheep were 
conveniently lodged on deck, on the top of the spars, under a 
commodious awning, and the fowls in coops. The cow and 
sheep had an allowance of two hundred-weight of hay 
weekly, and a daily allowance of 15 gallons of fresh water. 7 

These were to feed a total complement of 384 souls as far as the 
Cape of Good Hope, where additional supplies could be had. 

Such stores of fresh meat made the voyage possible, but 
scarcely more than tolerable. In cramped and congested quarters, 
surrounded by dangers from human enemies and in peril from 
the elements, even the experienced traveller might confess, “ I 
could not help feeling considerable emotion, and some alarm, 
upon quitting my native shore upon so long and dangerous a voy¬ 
age. . .” 8 And the dangers were very real. There was always 

5 Parliamentary Paper , 1834, No. 478, Appendix 6 , p. 34. 

* [Thomas Twining], Travels in India One Hundred Years Ago (London, 

1893 ), P. a. 

7 Wathen, op. cit., p. 6 . 

8 Ibid., p. 6 . 



STEAM AND THE ALL-SEA ROUTE TO INDIA 83 

the likelihood of outbreaks of scurvy, which were vaguely under¬ 
stood to be due to improper diet, but which remained baffling to 
the end of the Company’s history. It was known that “ one 
with scurvy will recover with fresh food and water.” 9 But 
during an early nineteenth century voyage scurvy could be treated 
on board only by aerating the drinking water, washing the decks 
and woodwork with vinegar, boiling canned soup with the usual 
ration of peas and oatmeal, serving quantities of oil, vinegar, and 
mustard, substituting wine for spirits, and sometimes distributing 
a ration of pickled cabbage, the last item of which may have pos¬ 
sessed some real virtue. 10 

Storms at sea were possibly a greater source of dread. The 
annals of the Company are all too frequently marked by accounts 
of vessels blown ashore, thrown on reefs, lost through collision 
or fire at sea, or listed simply as “ missing.” 11 The storms of 
the Atlantic and Antarctic were replaced to some extent in the 
Indian Ocean by the chance of hostile attack. From early in the 
eighteenth century one of the greatest menaces to East Indiamen 
arose from the numbers of French frigates which haunted the 
usual courses to and from India. As the East Indiamen were 
primarily cargo carriers, the French not infrequently captured 
them, but as the former went as heavily armed as possible, they 
seldom capitulated without a struggle. Many of these engage¬ 
ments were extremely bloody, partly owing to the numbers carried 
and partly to the prevailing custom of boarding and hand-to-hand 
encounters. During the Napoleonic wars, English vessels were 
driven to sailing in fleets under naval convoy, which reduced the 
hazard considerably. But no such list of dangers would be com¬ 
plete without reference to the pirates found on occasion in all 
seas, and almost constantly to be anticipated in Indian waters. 
Some of these hailed from European countries, but more of them 
came from Arabian and Persian ports, which from time im¬ 
memorial had been piratical breeding grounds. The guns of the 
East Indiamen were frequently not proof against these marauders, 
whose chosen method of attack was to surround their quarry with 
numbers of small boats packed with men who might thus swarm 
on board and massacre passengers and crew alike. 12 

These and many other dangers often enlivened a voyage around 

9 Edward Terry, A Voyage to India (London, 1655), p. 15. 

10 a Captain Wallis’ Voyage around the World,” in the Gentleman's Magazine, 
XLVI (1766), 4x7; Sir Henry Grose, Voyage to the East Indies (From A New 
Collection of Voyages , vol. II j London, 1767), p. 474. 

11 The use of the lightning rod to reduce the danger to ships’ masts was known 
before the end of the eighteenth century. — See Twining, of. cit p. 41, for the use 
of a £C chain conductor ” during a voyage in 1792. 

12 See Chatterton, of. cit pp. 6, 300, and pp. 197 if, below. 



84- BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

the Cape, but even imminent dangers could not remove the vast 
tedium of a passage. Long calms were nearly as hard on nerves 
as severe storms. Even in fair sailing weather monotony was the 
rule and many expedients were resorted to for beguiling the time. 
Strange fish and birds were noted. Sharks were caught. A pass¬ 
ing vessel was a notable event. The crossing of the Line was 
made the occasion for the most outlandish mummeries and 
breaches of discipline. 18 And on a voyage where speed of passage 
was incidental and caution was the watchword of every English 
captain, the younger members of the ship’s company seldom re¬ 
mained long immune from the subtleties and excitement of flirta¬ 
tion, from which the participants did not always emerge un¬ 
scathed. 14 

The courses sailed by the East Indiamen were not identical. On 
the voyage out, the ships almost invariably started from the Com¬ 
pany’s docks on the Thames. Passengers usually joined the 
vessels several days or even weeks later at one of the harbors of 
the Downs from which the final departure would be made. 15 
Thence the ships sailed down the Channel for the op&n Atlantic 
and on into the Bay of Biscay. From here any one of three or four 
routes might be taken during the early nineteenth century, de¬ 
pending chiefly on the character of the vessel, the skill of its 
captain, the season of year, and the presumed location of enemies. 

The Portuguese, in opening up the all-sea route, had crept 
down the African coast within sight of land. This alone goes far 
to explain the fact that fifty years were required from the begin¬ 
ning of the explorations of Prince Henry before the Cape was 
reached, because of the weak and variable winds prevailing along 
the coast of Africa. Cabral was apparently the first to discover the 
trade winds blowing from the coast of South America toward the 
Cape of Good Hope. It had already been found that from 
the Canaries and Cape Verde Islands a steady northeast wind 
would carry vessels within two hundred miles of the Brazilian 
coast. By thus shaping a triangular course through the Atlantic, 
the time consumed in reaching the latitude of- the Cape might 
be reduced even as the geographical distance was lengthened. 
This was the course employed generally until the early years 
of the nineteenth century, when new styles of rigging and im- 

13 See Rev. Daniel Tyerman and George Bennet, Journal of Voyages and- Travels 
(2 vols., London, 1831), I, 3—18, fassim; Wathen, of. cit . 

14 The case of Warren Hastings inevitably springs to mind (See Macaulay’s 
Essay on Warren Hastings'). But this incident lacked the tragedy of numerous 
others which, according to contemporary journals, too often ended in suicide. 

15 George, Viscount Valentia, Voyages and Travels to India, Ceylon, the Red 
Sea, Abyssinia, and Egyft, in the Years 1802, 1803, 1804, 1805, and 1806 (3 vols., 
London, 1809), I, 3. 



STEAM AND THE ALL-SEA ROUTE TO INDIA 85 

proved ability to tack against the wind recommended more direct 

courses. 

On many of the earlier voyages the Cape of Good Hope was 
not touched at all, inasmuch as the more dependable westerly 
winds were found far to the south in the latitude of 45 °- From 
this region a course might be shaped through the Mozambique 
Channel, with stops at Madagascar, or on the East African coast, 
before continuing on to Ceylon. Some vessels, however, con¬ 
tinued well to the east of Madagascar, where good winds were 
found which would continue to Madras Roads or to Bengal. In 
such instances, the last previous stops would be made at Madeira 
in the Canaries, or possibly at St. Helena. During this early 
period Table Bay was an emergency port rather than a regular 
port of call for the English. 

The capture of Cape Town in 1795 and again in 1806 and 
contemporaneous changes in sailing technique led to the shaping 
of more direct courses from Cape Verde to the tip of Africa in 
which Cape Town became a regular half-way station. 16 St. Helena 
retained much of its importance as a watering station, but vessels 
in good condition made the stop less and less frequently after 
the close of the eighteenth century. By the time of the exile of 
Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815' the island was seldom touched by 
passing vessels. The return voyage from India differed but little 
in European waters and not greatly in the Indian Ocean, as such 
voyages were nearly always made when the winds had reversed 
their directions. 11 

Even with improved vessels and new and commodious way 
stations, the Cape route remained long, difficult, and tiresome. 18 
It enjoyed the single advantage after 1815 of being politically 
safe. But with the speeding up of European life, due to the 
effects of the Industrial Revolution, this route proved to be more 
and more inadequate, and when new means of transportation 
presently made possible the development of shorter lines between 
England and India, the Cape route was doomed to suffer a decline, 
even though continuing to be the main commercial highway for a 
half century longer. 

It has been pointed out that the eastern enterprises of Napoleon 
Bonaparte focused attention throughout the British world on the 

16 Lord Valentia, of . cit., I, 3—26, gives an excellent account of the resources 
of St. Helena. 

17 See Archibald Duncan, The Mariner's Chronicle (London, 1804). 

18 An article, t£ Outward Bound,” in the Asiatic Journal , XVIII, N.S., Pt. I, 
195-206, gives a vivid and excellent description of many details of a voyage to 
India via the Cape during the early years of the nineteenth century. 



86 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

need of new routes of communication between England and India 
for political purposes. 19 The Industrial Revolution, which was 
gaining momentum meanwhile, brought attention to a similar 
need for economic advantage. The England of Castlereagh, with 
all its unemployment and want and misery, was not the England 
of Fox and Pitt, nor would Clive have recognized the Indian 
Presidencies of Lord William Bentinck’s time. The difference 
was to be found principally in the widening of horizons, and these 
expanded in proportion to the growth of commercial interests. 
English national policy still rested on a mercantile basis; for that 
matter, mercantile interests were becoming more dominant than 
ever. The character of the new era beginning with the treaties 
of Vienna was determined not so much by cabinet officers and 
parliamentary speakers as by a host of inventors whose combined 
efforts vastly speeded up industrial life and produced new 
problems and new relationships. The British statesmen of the 
nineteenth century were not so free to create national policies and 
attitudes as their predecessors had been; they were reduced in¬ 
stead to more or less vain attempts to adapt themselves to the 
working of new forces which they only vaguely comprehended. 
The bearing of these developments on international relations is 
even today imperfectly understood, and early nineteenth century 
statesmen may be dealt with leniently for failure fully to under¬ 
stand the interrelation of economic and political forces. 

The growth of English industry and the changing character of 
the Indian trade during the first quarter of the nineteenth century 
gave eloquent testimony on the value of India. In early centuries 
the Indian trade had been confined to goods of quality, for which 
India exacted payment in specie. But the quantity produc¬ 
tion of cheap cloth manufactures, greatly in demand in India, 
where plenty of raw cotton was grown, changed the old balance of 
trade and vastly increased India’s economic importance to Great 
Britain. In 1814, the year in which the East India Company’s 
trade monopoly with India was removed, manufactured cloth 
sent out from Great Britain to India amounted to 8 x 7,000 yards, 
valued at £201,182. By 18x9 cloth exports to India had risen 
to 7,127,661 yards, by 1824 to 23,685,426 yards, and by 1832 
to 517833,913 yards, valued at £3,23 8,248. 2,0 Again, in 1790, 
before the commercial effects of the new industrial movement 
were beginning to be considerably felt, British imports from the 

19 See above, pp. 56, 74, 79. 

20 Park Pap., 1837, No. 539, p. 97. See James Silk Buckingham, Explanatory 
Report on the Plan and Object of Mr. Buckingham V Lectures on the Oriental World 
(issued by the Liverpool Committee for Promoting Free Trade to India and China), 
PP- 30 - 33 - 



STEAM AND THE ALL-SEA ROUTE TO INDIA 87 

East amounted to 27,000 tons, and exports thence to 26,400 tons. 
By 1817 the situation had completely altered, with eastern imports 
into Great Britain amounting to 80,700 tons and exports to India 
and neighboring countries to 109,400 tons. 21 This indicated that 
India was becoming very much more essential to British welfare 
than had ever been the case before, and must be guarded and 
protected accordingly. But it was very imperfectly seen until 
the century was far advanced that these commercial changes 
created an entire new set of relationships with parts of Africa and 
western Asia, and not only with these regions, but with the prin¬ 
cipal continental Powers as well, before a Suez commercial water¬ 
way had been seriously thought of. 

Although the Cape route long continued to suffice for the 
transport of goods, it no longer functioned so satisfactorily after 
1815 as in earlier times for purposes of communication, either 
official or unofficial. Business correspondence began to require 
more speedy channels. Increasing numbers of expatriated Eng¬ 
lishmen — clerks, tradesmen, and soldiers — demanded more 
frequent and facile means of keeping in touch with friends and 
relatives. It was not the search for new channels of trade, there¬ 
fore, but for improved lines of communication which created 
such new and difficult political problems in the countries of the 
Near and Middle East after the Napoleonic Wars. To solve 
these problems the potentiality of steam came to be considered. 

Before the Congress of Vienna, at a time when steam power 
was being applied to the great river systems of North America, 
the English were building steam vessels of their own for domestic 
use. By 1815 steamers were in regular operation on the larger 
canals and rivers, and within a few years more they were making 
scheduled trips across the English and Irish Channels. 22 Before 
1820 far-sighted individuals were predicting the early application 
of steam to transoceanic transportation, 23 and in 1823 a series of 
campaigns was launched simultaneously in England and in the 
Indian Presidencies for the establishment of steam communication, 
either through the Mediterranean, in conjunction with the opening 
up of some logical overland route across the intervening land 

21 Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register , XXIII, O.S., 199. See H. L. Hoskins, 
“The Growth of British Interest in the Route to India, 55 in the Journal of Indian 
History, II, 165—177. 

22 Interesting contemporary accounts of the development of steam navigation in 
English waters are contained in Pari . Pap. 1834, No. 478. 

23 For example, the English Consul-General in Egypt, Mr. John Barker, pub¬ 
licly broached the idea as early as 181$, and attempted to take up the matter of 
.steam communication with India with members of the British Government in 1816, 
but was reproved with the assertion that this was a matter “ not in his competence. 55 
— Barker, Syria and Egypt under the Last Five Sultans, II, 126. 



88 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

barriers to arms of the Indian Ocean, or around the Cape of Good 
Hope. 21 

There were good reasons for the recrudescence of routes im¬ 
pinging on the Mediterranean as steam navigation came to the 
fore. The character of the early steam vessel itself suggested 
this, for it did not give promise of proving practicable over very 
long routes. It was at once a very expensive and a highly in¬ 
efficient piece of workmanship. There was even some doubt at 
first whether it could ever be used successfully on the high seas. 
Among the many difficulties to be encountered were the incrusta¬ 
tion of boilers and pipes from using salt water, damage to paddle 
wheels from high seas, the frequent failure of steam pumps, and 
faulty design and workmanship in general. 25 Frequent stoppages 
were necessary for the lubrication and readj ustment of machinery, 
and extensive repairs were often called for which necessitated the 
services of specially equipped foundries. 

Early steam engines of all kinds were very inefficient and 
wasteful. Even for short voyages large quantities of coal were 
required, while on longer ones almost all of the cargo'space had 
to be used for coal bunkers. For really extensive voyages large 
and relatively frequent depots of coal were required, and these 
naturally had to be established by sailing vessels. Even from this 
brief enumeration of difficulties it is evident that steam vessels, 
even when assisted by sails, were scarcely equal to any long sus¬ 
tained voyage, such as that around the continent of Africa. It 
was more nearly feasible to employ them on sections of the shorter 
water routes involving the English Channel, the Bay of Biscay, 
the Mediterranean, and either the Red and Arabian Seas or the 
Persian Gulf, where the total sailing distance between England 
and India was not more than a third of that by the all-sea route. 

English public attention might have been drawn the sooner to 
the possibilities of effecting speedy communication with the East 
by steam but for the fact that the regular use of the shorter routes 
did not survive the Napoleonic Wars. 26 The line through Egypt 
fell into disuse because of the opposition of the Porte to the 
navigation of the Red Sea and to the prevalence of turbulent 
political conditions in Egypt. The alternative route through 

24 Park Paf., 1831-1832, No. 733. —II, App. 25; Asiatic Journal XIV, O.S., 5. 

25 In 1831 a Parliamentary Committee was appointed to “take into considera- 

tion the frequent Calamities by Steam Navigation and the best Means of guarding 
against their Recurrence . . — Pari. Paf., 1831-1832, No. 43, pp. 305, 520, 

601 $ ibid., 1834, No. 478, p. 25. 

26 In 1802 and for some time thereafter mails were sent to England from India 
both via Suez, Cairo and Alexandria and via Basrah and the Syrian desert. At this 
time private messages were frequently despatched by one or another of these routes, 
as well. 



STEAM AND THE ALL-SEA ROUTE TO INDIA 89 

Syria and Mesopotamia declined because of chaotic conditions 
throughout western Asia as well as along the European extension 
of the line. But the interest which declined in the shorter routes 
to the East after the Napoleonic period experienced a sudden 
revival, while political conditions in the countries of western Asia 
were still highly unsettled. This was due to several factors. The 
increasingly unsatisfactory political situation in and beyond the 
Levant was becoming a matter of deep concern, not merely to 
kings and ministers, but for the first time to great numbers of 
public minded individuals as well. It was argued on all sides 
that, to offset the territorial gains of Russia and the political in¬ 
fluence of France, Britain must needs develop a more effective 
line of communication which might be controlled, if need be, 
during a European conflict. Additional interest in such matters 
was stimulated at the same time by the publication of the ex¬ 
periences of travellers of both sexes who had recently made their 
way to or from India through Mesopotamia or Egypt and who 
saw great opportunities for intervention of some kind by their 
government. Practically all such writers agreed that for travel, 
as well as despatches, the route via Egypt and the Red Sea might 
be used with a considerable gain in time, if not in comfort, over 
the Cape route. 27 However, it was the growing efficacy of the 
steam vessel which carried much speculation to the point of 
experiment. 

The first definite scheme recorded for a line of steam vessels 
between England and India depending on the “ overland ” route 
through Egypt was the product of an English naval officer, James 
Henry Johnston. Finding a considerable degree of interest being 
manifested in England on the subject of steam communication, 
he attempted in 1822 to form a company with the immediate ob¬ 
ject of establishing a steam service between Calcutta and Suez. He 
was able to secure some financial support in England, where capital 
was becoming available for almost any kind of new enterprise. 
He thereupon sailed for Calcutta to complete the organization of 
his company. Here, however, his project did not appear prac¬ 
ticable to any of the financial interests from which support was 

27 See, for example, Mrs. Colonel El wood, Narrative of a Journey Overland 
from England to the Continent of Europe, Egypt and the Red Sea, to India ... in 
the years 1825, 1826, 1827 and 1828 (2 vols., London, 1830)5 Lieut.-Col. Fitz- 
Clarence, Journal of a Route across India through Egypt to England, in 1817-1818 
(London, 1819)5 Pari. Pap., 1831-1832, No. 735. — II, p. 7265 Astatic Journal, 
III, N.S. Pt. I, 196-2065 Anon., A Few Notes taken during an Overland Journey 
from England to India . . * (Calcutta, 1826)5 [John Barker], A Vade-Mecum 
from India to Europe, by way of Egypt (London, priv. pr., 1827). 



90 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


sought, though, as a caustic contemporary said — “ The details 
. . . furnished respecting it are so specious, and all the obstacles 
in the way of its success are so admirably disposed of, that it is 
astonishing the projector has not been deluged with contributions 
or subscriptions already, and that a steamer is not unloading in 
the port of Suez.” 28 Even a more sympathetic writer remarked 
that — “We have only to state . . . that the measure has been 
patronized in our eastern capital in a manner fully equal to the 
encouragement that is given in the mother country to any spec¬ 
ulative scheme of similar or higher character. The journey across 
the isthmus of Suez is of course regarded as a trifle.” 28 

The objections to the plan were numerous and obvious. The 
initial cost, maintenance, and operation of steam vessels was almost 
a barrier to commercial profits at that time. No attempts had 
been made to determine whether a steam vessel could profitably 
operate on a line as long as that from Calcutta to Suez, even with 
intermediate stops. It was also exceedingly doubtful whether a 
steam vessel could operate on this line at all during those summer 
months when the sopthwest monsoon held sway over Ihe Indian 
Ocean. But in addition to these difficulties, there was grave doubt 
whether political conditions in Egypt and Syria would permit of 
uninterrupted communication between Suez and Alexandria. In 
any event the Mediterranean end of the line could not readily be 
developed by such resources as the projector had in view, and in 
the absence of any government subsidy, it would indeed have been 
a reckless venture to have embarked on the carrying out of the 
scheme. 

While the immediate response was disappointing to those in¬ 
terested, the proposition was not without result. Early in 1823, 
a number of enterprising citizens of Calcutta, styling themselves 
a “ Steam Committee,” called a public meeting for the purpose of 
considering Johnston’s scheme and raising funds in support of it. 
The immediate financial subscriptions were inconsiderable, but 
other results were more noteworthy. The meeting proceeded to 
organize as a “ Society for the Encouragement of Steam Naviga¬ 
tion between Great Britain and India,” and by establishing a 
“ Steam Fund,” laid the foundations for the eventual realization 
of their hopes. Meanwhile, the Supreme Government of 
India,, which, under the IVIarquess of Wellesley, had taken the 
initiative in promoting rapid despatch service during the Na- 

28 Asiatic Journal, XV, O.S., 477-480. 

29 Ibid., XVII, O.S., 568. 

30 C fL lcu f ta Government Gazette , 17 Jan., 1847; Pari. Paf., 1831-1812, No 
73J- —II, App. 25. 



STEAM AND THE ALL-SEA ROUTE TO INDIA 91 

poleonic Wars, was preparing to revive and expand that service. 
In May, 1823, the new Governor-General, Lord Amherst, wrote 
the Court of Directors, that — 

We have for some time past been engaged in inquiries 
respecting the practicability of opening a communication with 
England through Egypt by means of steam vessels, and ob¬ 
serving from the public prints that the subject has been agi¬ 
tated in England, we consider it will be acceptable to your 
Honourable Court ... to be assured that the difficulties 
on this side of the Egyptian Isthmus are not greater than on 
the other. . . 31 

On the basis of these considerations, it was suggested to the 
Directors that the East India Company place two steam ships in 
operation on each side of the Isthmus of Suez, four steam vessels 
being considered sufficient for maintaining a monthly communica¬ 
tion at that time. This interesting but impracticable suggestion 
did not impress the materialistic Court, and the recommendation 
was ignored. More than a decade was destined to elapse before 
this body would sanction the expenditure of any of their funds for 
the development of steam lines of their own, and then only under 
duress. 

At this juncture, however, with both the Government and the 
public of the Bengal Presidency interested in steam communica¬ 
tion, a degree of cooperation was attained which brought the 
common object a step nearer realization. The Governor-General, 
who had but lately stated that — “We do not hold out the en¬ 
couragement of Government to the commencement of an enter¬ 
prise of which the practicability and ultimate success appeared in 
our judgment very doubtful,” 32 reconsidered his attitude. By 
the end of the year (1823) his conversion to a trial of steam 
navigation was complete. Late in December, he reported to the 
Court of Directors that, anticipating their approval, “ we accord¬ 
ingly resolved to place at the disposal of the Committe the sum 
of 20,000 rupees as a contribution toward the attainment of the 
object in question.” 33 But this grant was rigidly conditioned by 
requiring that any steam vessel despatched from England to India 
with the view of obtaining a portion of the Bengal steam fund 
as a reward should be of no less than 300 tons burden, 34 that not 

31 Ibid., 1831-1832, No. 735. — II, App. 25, p. 72 6, 

32 Ibid., App. 24, pp. 675-676. 

38 Ibid., p. 6765 Asiatic Journal, XVIII, O.S., 4885 Ibid., XIX, O.S., 837. 

34 This provision was inserted without regard to a law on the English statute 
books that no vessel of less than 500 tons burden might be permitted to sail between 



92 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


more than 1,00,000 rupees (i lac) should be granted by the 
Steam Committee as a premium to any contestant, and that two 
round trips must be made between England and India before any 
bonus could be claimed. The Court of Directors generously ap¬ 
proved this action, an attitude which is a matter for surprise in 
view of the reluctance usually shown in permitting any disburse¬ 
ments not absolutely necessary. 

The terms of the Bengal Government grant of 20,000 rupees 
practically determined the conditions under which the Steam 
Committee undertook to bring about the commencement of steam 
communication with the home country. At a meeting held on 
December 17, 1823, a resolution was adopted which included the 
following item: 

That the amount received under the subscriptions opened 
for this purpose, ... or if the net receipts from the sub¬ 
scription shall exceed . . . one lac of Sicca Rupees, so much 
therefore as shall amount to that sum, be assigned, as a 
Premium, to any individuals, or company, being British sub¬ 
jects, who may first establish a Communication by Steam 
Vessels between Great Britain and Bengal, by either of the 
routes above-mentioned, before the expiration of the year 
1826. 35 

Other details of the offer recapitulated those of the Government 
donation, and added that the minimum of four steam voyages 
between England and Bengal must average not more than seventy 
days each. 38 

The nature of the Calcutta Steam Committee’s award and the 
date by which the stipulated four voyages were to be completed, 
appeared to argue in favor of the Cape route, which the Com¬ 
mittee evidently had in mind. On this line only one vessel would 
be required for experimental purposes as against at least two by 
either of the shorter routes, hence the capital investment would 
be much smaller. Also, because of the prevailing winds along 
the route, sails might successfully be employed as auxiliary 
power, which would be a more doubtful matter in the Red Sea or 
Persian Gulf. 

England and India. Possibly the law was interpreted as applying only to sailing 
vessels. The steam vessel which first made the voyage to India came within the 
law, however, and claimed 500 tons. 

35 Quarterly Oriental Magazine , VII, xix. 

36 Neither of the other Indian Presidencies assisted in this, as they were pre¬ 
occupied at this time in considering their own projects for steam lines. There was 
little feeling of unity among the Anglo-Indian communities, even in such matters 
of general concern. 



STEAM AND THE ALL-SEA ROUTE TO INDIA 93 

It was quite natural, in spite of the limitations inherent in the 
steamship, that the first attempt to bridge the distance between 
England and India by the use of steam was directed to the all¬ 
sea route. This was the traditional English passage-way to the 
East — one which had been acquired and monopolized only after 
many struggles, and the one which had sufficed for the establish¬ 
ment of a great commercial empire in India. Because it was an 
all-water passage, and could be protected and controlled as long 
as British fleets dominated the seas, it was naturally looked upon 
as peculiarly Britain’s own. The passage was subject to no whim 
of Sultan or Pasha. Jealous and suspicious European govern¬ 
ments could not inspect or tamper at pleasure with such com¬ 
munications. There need be no transshipment of mails, pas¬ 
sengers, or cargoes. Its course did not lie chiefly in the blis¬ 
tering tropics. Moreover, the application of steam to this 
route was thought to promise a transit as speedy as any which 
could be accomplished by shorter routes having difficult land 
barriers. 37 

The prospect of large reward immediately attracted a consid¬ 
erable number of promoters, both in India and England, and none 
more powerfully than Capt. Johnston. He readily altered his 
earlier plan of establishing a line of steam vessels between Cal¬ 
cutta and Suez in favor of one between England and India by way 
of the Cape of Good Hope, and hastened back to England to 
complete his arrangements. Once again in England he had little 
difficulty, in view of the tantalizing prospect, in effecting the or¬ 
ganization of a steam navigation company with a proposed capital 
of £200,000. Ownership of the vessel was presently made up 
into 64 shares of £500 each, which were subscribed by 32 English 
financiers, most of them members of large London commercial 
houses. 38 It was perhaps appropriate that the offices of the new 
concern should be located in the South Sea House, a name rem¬ 
iniscent of an earlier speculative venture. 

During the year and a half following the publication of the 
Calcutta Steam Committee’s prize offer, Capt. Johnston and his 
associates were feverishly at work pushing the construction of a 

37 Frederick Sheer, The Cafe of Good Hope versus Egypt; or Political and 
Commercial Considerations on the Proper Line of Steam Communication with the 
East Indies (London, [1839]), p. 14$ Henry Wise, An Analysis of One Hundred 
Voyages to and from India, China, etc., . . . with Remarks on the Advantages of 
Steam-power applied as an auxiliary Aid to Shipping . . . (London, 1839), p. 
xixj Asiatic Journal , XXX, N.S., Pt. I, 855 ibid., XXXI, N.S., Pt. I, 138. 

38 Oriental Herald, IV, 395-3965 Asiatic Journal, XVII, O.S., 5685 Low, History 
of the Indian Navy, I, 5205 Pari. Pap., 1831-1832, No. 735. — II, 139, 



94 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

large steam vessel, in the hope of forestalling any possible rival. 
This was to be a pioneering venture in more than one respect. 
The vessel was to be a monster of its kind with a measurement of 
500 tons burden, in view of the distance to be traversed, the heavy 
seas to be encountered, and the large amount of fuel to be carried. 
The ship was no larger than many of the East Indiamen in the 
East India Company’s fleet, it is true, but this was the first steam 
vessel built in England designed exclusively for service on the 
high seas. 30 

While the vessel was building, the wildest rumors were afloat. 
It was reported in the Indian press that the new vessel would be 
equipped with an engine of a new type, using such small quantities 
of fuel that no stops would be required en route for an additional 
supply. A voyage of sixty days was expected to bring the prodigy 
from the Thames to the Hooghly. So wild and unfounded were 
the claims made for the new vessel by those who knew little of it 
that its subsequent failure nearly to measure up to these sanguine 
expectations caused a very decided reaction against any plan for 
the application of steam to the longer ocean routes for years to 
come. 

Report was also current of other great steamships which were 
being secretly prepared for the voyage to India in the hope of 
capturing the substantial prize. 40 But whatever plans may have 
been on foot, Capt. Johnston was the first to complete his prep¬ 
arations for a steam voyage. In March, 1825? die Oriental 
Herald regaled its readers with the intriguing statement that — 

We are at length enabled to announce the certainty of a 
steam-vessel sailing for India by way of the Cape of Good 
Hope. All thoughts of pursuing the route by the Mediter¬ 
ranean and Red Sea appear to have been judiciously aban¬ 
doned. In the way now chosen there are no obstacles but a 
supply of fuel at intermediate stations and the weathering of 
heavy gales off the Cape. The former is a mere question of 
expenses. . . The latter is only to be determined by ex¬ 
periments, but . . . [there is] the strongest hope. 41 

The prospectus of the venture, published by the Company in 
stating their plans for a regular line of bi-monthly steamers by 
the Cape, said of this their first vessel, that u calculations hold 
out every prospect of her reaching Calcutta within two months 

39 Low, of. cit.y I, <>2o. It was said that the Dutch were the first to build steam¬ 
ships for ocean navigation, to be used in their eastern possessions. 

40 Oriental Herald, I, 195 $ ibid., VII, 171. 

41 Ibid., IV, 395* 



STEAM AND THE ALL-SEA ROUTE TO INDIA 95 

from the time of her leaving Portsmouth.” 12 This estimate was 
but one-third or one-fourth of the time usually required for the 
voyage by the ships of the East India Company, but it was 
supposed that, since a steam vessel would not be dependent on 
winds, a straight track would materially reduce the distance to be 
covered. 

By the time Capt. Johnston’s vessel was ready, the entire Brit¬ 
ish world awaited with vast interest and deep concern the outcome 
of the venture. Cynics prepared to scoff and enthusiasts to rejoice. 
The promoters of the enterprise had such great faith in their cal¬ 
culations and in the performance of the vessel that not even a 
trial trip was made before the commencement of the voyage. 
But the time allowed by the Calcutta Steam Committee was 
growing short and final preparations had to be unduly hastened. 
Those who were fortunate or courageous, as the case may have 
been, in being selected as passengers for the historic voyage, em¬ 
barked at London in the middle of August, 1825, and the steamer 
immediately set out for Falmouth, whence the official start was to 
be made. This first stage of the trip was somewhat marred by a 
dangerous fire, which resulted from the stowing of coal directly 
over the engine boiler. The incident was minimized and hushed 
up as much as possible by the Company’s officials, and little time 
was lost. On August 16, the pathfinding steamship, happily 
named the Enterprize , steamed out of Falmouth harbor for Cal¬ 
cutta with flags flying and great paddle wheels churning, and 
bearing important official despatches and seventeen passengers. 43 

News of the voyage drifted back to England from points along 
the route. Almost from the outset it became apparent that the 
vessel was not making the anticipated progress. Subsequently 
it appeared that the enormous weight of the- coal with which the 
ship started, and its improper location on board, gave the steamer 
an unlooked for draught, and seriously impeded progress for a 
considerable time. Storms and head winds caused further delay, 
providing special handicaps for a paddle steamer where even im¬ 
mersion was necessary to effective operation. Finally, after the 
original fuel supply had been exhausted, the Enterprize was com¬ 
pelled to change tack and depend entirely on sails in order to reach 
the Cape. The voyage from Cape Town, where the single coal 
depot had been located, was largely a replica of the first half of 
the voyage. 44 The vessel arrived at Calcutta only after the ex- 

42 Ibid., IV, 396. 

48 Ibid., VI, 580-581. Among the passengers was a sort of Jonah, one Thomas 
Waghorn, who later distinguished himself as a proponent of the route through 
Egypt. — See Pari. Paf., 1834, No. 478, Min. of Ev., p. 208. 

44 < Asiatic Journal, XX, O.S., 371, 487; ibid., XXI, 663, 785—786; Oriental 
Herald, VI, 580-581, IX, 360—361. 








STEAM AND THE ALL-SEA ROUTE TO INDIA 97 

waters. During the Burmese War she was employed in towing 
transports to and from Rangoon and in carrying despatches, 50 
and was subsequently used in an unsuccessful attempt to establish 
a steam line between Calcutta and Suez. The pioneering efforts 
of Capt. Johnston were also not permitted to go altogether un¬ 
requited. In 1827' the Calcutta Steam Committee voted him one- 
half of the existing steam fund, the other half being reserved for 
other meritorious attempts of the same kind. Capt. Johnston, 
having continued for a time in command of the Enterprise , spent 
the remainder of a very useful life at Calcutta originating and 
developing lines of steam vessels on the great river systems of 
India.'’’ 1 


The voyage of the Enterpriza was considered by many as show¬ 
ing that while the all-sea route might be practicable, it was not 
profitable for steam navigation.However, in spite of this con¬ 
clusion, and in face of the disappointing results of other experi¬ 
mental voyages, both the Supreme Government .of India and the 
mercantile community at Calcutta persisted lit advocating the 
development of the Cape route Hy-,steam vessels as long as any 
degree of public interest could be rqitin.tamed and ambitious pro¬ 
moters were found to respond. Thd^MSerest of Calcutta in the 
all-sea route has already been alluded to in indicating the interest 
of Anglo-Indian merchants in a waterway which might be utilized 
for the purposes of steam trade as well as for purposes of com¬ 
munication. Tiie Cape route was also free from political dangers. 
But the rivalry and competition of merchant houses in India, com¬ 
bined with the mutual prejudices of the Indian Presidencies also 
had much bearing on the routes and means advocated for steam 
communication after xflaj.™ 

From the point of view of accessibility from Europe, the Indian 
presidencies occupy very dissimilar positions. Wind and ocean 
currents, as well as continental outlines, direct any vessels, whether 
propelled by steam or sails, from the Cape of Good Hope toward 
the east coast of India, making Madras and Calcutta the logical 
eastern termini. lanes of communication extending eastward 
from the Mediterranean, however, whether traversing Egypt and 

m Asiatic Journal , XXI, O.S., 634, 735, 7K55 ibid,, XXII, 600 £F., 713* Low, 
op, at, I, 46s, 521. 

c? Calcutta Government Gazette, 17 Jan., 18275 Asiatic Journal , VIII, N.S., 
Pl II, 2255 ibid,, IX, Ft* II, iol In 1838 the Enter prize was dismantled and her 
boilers installed in a new vessel built at Calcutta to receive them. — Asiatic Journal , 
XXVIII, N.S., Ft. II, 103. 

62 Low, op, clt,, I, 521, 

M See Asiatic Journal , XX, 0,$., 358-3595 Oriental Herald , VI, 574-575. 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


98 

the Red Sea, or utilizing natural highways through Syria, Mesopo¬ 
tamia, and the Persian Gulf, find in Bombay their logical objec¬ 
tive. During the months of June, July, August, and September, 
to be sure, when the southwest monsoon is at its height, sailing 
vessels find it impossible to make direct crossings between the 
Red Sea and Bombay. Even the steam vessels of the early nine¬ 
teenth century frequently found it necessary to make wide detours 
from the mouth of the Red Sea, so that some advantage of the 
prevailing winds might be taken in reaching the coast of India. 
But allowing for all deviations, the distance between Suez and 
Bombay was materially less than between Suez and Calcutta. 

Bombay as the base port for lines of steam communication be¬ 
tween England and India would naturally enjoy a considerable 
moral and commercial advantage over other Indian ports. As 
the seat of a presidency, Bombay might thus outstrip her sister 
presidencies of Bengal and Madras, and recover the position of 
supremacy she had enjoyed before the elevation of Calcutta by 
the Regulating Act of 1773. 04 Hence it is not strange that the 
Government and mercantile community of Calcutta, generally 
aided and abetted by official and mercantile elements of Madras, 
preferred to agitate for the establishment of steam communication 
via the Cape of Good Hope rather than to contribute to the rise 
of a rival presidency. 

On January 16, 1827, a general meeting of the subscribers to 
the Bengal Steam Fund met at the Town Hall in Calcutta to 
consider the disposition of the fund, which then totalled over 
£10,000. After some discussion the subscribers to the fund 
voted that half the amount of the Fund be awarded to Capt. 
Johnston, whose efforts were considered meritorious, and that the 
other half of the fund should “ be held by the Committee 
for two years to remunerate any successful attempt to carry into 
effect the original object.” 55 This action was taken in the hope 
that some one of the several plans then being agitated might bear 
fruit. 

One of the propositions for a steam line between England and 
Bengal had as its chief protagonist a young Anglo-Indian, James 
W. Taylor, a brother of the English political agent at Bagdad 
and Basrah, Major Robert Taylor. 66 Young Taylor, being at¬ 
tracted by the prospect of reward which had prompted Capt. 
Johnston’s venture, spent a part of the year 1825 in England 

54 Oriental Herald, VI, 574-575; Asiatic Journal, XXII, O.S., 89, 607. 

55 Quarterly Oriental Magazine, VII, xxi; Oriental Herald, XX, 183. 

50 Barker, of. cit., II, 129; Pari. Paf., 1834, No. 478, App. 8, p. 36. " 



STEAM AND THE ALL-SEA ROUTE TO INDIA 99 

trying to form a company which might compete with Capt. John¬ 
ston’s and by early and successful voyages to Bengal secure the 
coveted award. 57 A skeleton organization was formed and some 
funds subscribed, but the project was still only half matured 
when the Enterprize sailed on her maiden voyage. The results 
of this experiment were so negative that Taylor and his associates 
found it impracticable to continue their attempts to establish a 
steam navigation concern for the India service at the moment. 
In 1827 Taylor applied to the Steam Committee at Calcutta for 
compensation to offset the losses he had already incurred in the 
cause of steam navigation, but his claims were disallowed. The 
Steam Committee, while ready to support honest endeavor and 
worthy experiment, did not wish to be considered a philanthropical 
organization. 58 Following this rebuff, Taylor transferred his 
attention to steam routes leading eastward from the Mediter¬ 
ranean, where his plans more nearly approached fruition. 

Meanwhile, the idea of establishing a steam line via the Cape, 
fostered by the remainder of the Bengal Steam Fund, was vig¬ 
orously taken up by another young promoter, Thomas Waghorn. 
This unique individual, whose vocabulary did not contain the 
word “ impossible,” became distinguished as the projector of 
communication with India by almost all of the known routes, and 
particularly that through Egypt. Born in 1800, he entered the 
Royal Navy at the early age of twelve, and at seventeen had suc¬ 
cessfully passed the examination for a lieutenancy, establishing 
a.new record in this respect. Because of his extreme youth he 
did not receive a commission at the time, and for some vears he 
served without rank in the Bengal Pilot Service. During the 
Burmese War, 1824-1826, he distinguished himself for signal 
bravery in the capture of a commanding site at Rangoon, but was 
nevertheless.released from the Indian Navy shortly afterward 
because of his restless propensities. 55 

Waghorn’s insistent energy soon found a suitable vent in 
projects for steam communication, which contained enough of 
romance and of daring to capture his imagination. Discovering 
that the Calcutta Government was still imbued with the desire 
to develop the Cape route despite the unsatisfactory performance 
of the Enterprize, he promptly evolved a scheme for a steam com- 

” Ib’d-y 1831-1832, No. 733. — II, App. 25, pp. 727-728. 

58 Quarterly Oriental Magazine, VII, xxL 

RS London Times, ij March, 1884, p. j; Low, of. cit., I, j 2I . Pari. Paf 
1837, No. 339, p. 22. Waghorn .was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in the 
Royal ^ Navy in 1842, “ as an official acknowledgment of [his] exertions in es¬ 
tablishing the overland route to India.” — Asiatic Journal t XXXVII, N.S., Pt. II, 



100 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


munication at regular quarterly intervals with which he was able 
to attract the attention of that Government. 

In February, 182.7, Waghorn returned to England armed with 
a letter of recommendation from the Supreme Government to 
the Court of Directors. With his project thus sponsored, he set 
about securing further patronage for a line of mail packet steamers 
to India. He managed to secure hearings before various com¬ 
mercial organizations and he made numerous public addresses, 
but his incoherent speech, his exaggerated statements, and the 
recollection of Capt. Johnston’s failure all inhibited any great 
display of enthusiasm for his proposition. He was able, however, 
to secure some conditional promises of support from merchants 
in the India trade, and after insistent appeals, the Court of Direc¬ 
tors reluctantly agreed to supply engines for the first vessel which 
might be built under his plan. Books were thereupon opened for 
subscriptions by the newly-formed East India Trade Committee, 
while Waghorn hastened back to Calcutta to bid for the remainder 
of the Bengal Steam Fund and to secure further support from 
the Bengal Government. * 

He had meanwhile completed his program in detail. He pro¬ 
posed to establish a monthly steam communication eventually, 
beginning with an immediate quarterly service. At the outset 
only Government and private mails were to be carried, and he 
anticipated his profits from a new and high rate of postage on 
these — as much as four shillings for each single letter and four 
shillings per ounce on parcels. This rate he believed to be justified 
by the anticipated increase in speed and regularity of delivery. 
With small steamers of about 280 tons, and with three or four 
coal depots, he believed that voyages might be made in seventy 
days, the maximum interval originally prescribed by the Calcutta 
Steam Committee in its prize offer. For the establishment of 
this service, Waghorn estimated that an initial capital of only 
£12,000 would be required. 00 

The project sounded so plausible that a special meeting of the 
subscribers to the Bengal Steam Fund met on July 30, 1828, to 
consider making a special appropriation for the work by setting 
aside some of the conditions originally specified as the basis of 
awards from the steam fund. There was some difference of 
opinion in the meeting on this proposal. Capt. H. T. Prinsep, 
Secretary to the Bengal Government, believed that Waghorn’s 
calculations as to speed, fuel-carrying capacity, and practicability 
of such small steam vessels was considerably overrated. But 
Capt. Johnston, who was present, cast the die by expressing com- 

60 Asiatic Journal, XXVII, O.S., 218, 2x9. 



STEAM AND THE ALL-SEA ROUTE TO INDIA ioi 

plete faith in Waghorn’s estimate. The meeting thereupon voted 
that, “ should no speculation promising greater or equal success 
be undertaken before the 19th of January, 182.9, the unappro¬ 
priated fund for the encouragement of steam navigation shall, 
under proper security, be applied for the purpose of enabling Mr. 
Waghorn to carry his plan into execution.” 1,1 The Bengal Gov¬ 
ernment also approved the proposed postage rates. 

Pausing at every English community en route to England, 
Waghorn arrived in April, 1829, confident of success." 2 His high 
hopes, however, were quickly subdued. The English Post Office 
confronted him with an Act of Parliament prescribing the rates 
of Indian postage, thus removing the principal basis of his ex¬ 
pectation of revenue. The Court of Directors were unwilling to 
carry out the agreement they had made earlier. Added to these 
discouragements, the funds from eastern steam committees, which 
were his chief reliance, were not remitted. 113 

Waghorn felt he had no choice but to return to India to ascer¬ 
tain the reasons for lack of support. For one particular reason 
he decided to go out by way of Egypt and the Red Sea. He was 
aware of the drift of public attention to this route, now that the 
Cape route was discredited, and wished to become identified with 
it should it promise to be more practicable than the other. In an 
unsuccessful attempt to establish a new record for a speedy pas¬ 
sage, 64 Waghorn reached India on March 21, 1830, to find that 
projects for a steam line between India and Suez were already 
being everywhere discussed.' 16 Wishing to keep in the forefront 
of the movement, Waghorn soon proclaimed himself a leading 
exponent of the Red Sea route, and remained a conspicuous ad¬ 
vocate of the line during the remainder of his life. 

A single event at this moment practically completed the ruin 
of the Cape route as a line for steam communication between 
Great Britain and India. On March 20, 1830, the day before 
Waghorn arrived at Bombay, a sturdy little steamer, the Hugh 
Lindsay , which had been built at Bombay of India teak and fitted 
with engines from England, left that port for the Red Sea on an 

01 Ibid., XXVI, O.S., 729; XXVII, 218, 219. 

02 Ibid., XXVII, O.S., 479, 486-487; Low, of. cit., I, 521; Oriental Herald, 

XX, 185. In supporting his scheme, Waghorn pointed out that it had the approval 
of the Hon. Hugh Lindsay, Chairman of the East India Court of Directors, Captain 
Ross, of the late expedition to the North Polar regions, Mr. Maudslay, the steam 
engineer and manufacturer, and Mr. Gurney, inventor of the steam coach. 

03 Recourse was also had to printed propaganda. A pamphlet privately printed 
by Waghorn during this interval, entitled “ Steam Navigation to India by the Cape 
of Good Hope, 55 is of considerable interest. 

m See pp. 107, 118—120 below. 

05 Asiatic Journal, III, N.S., Pt., II, 183-184, 1985 ibid,, IV, Pt. II, 23-24. 



102 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


unheralded voyage. Suez was reached about a month later after 
an entirely successful passage. 110 Even the Calcutta Gazette could 
not refrain from saying that “ this experiment proves not only the 
practicability but the facility of steam navigation by the Red Sea 
route.” 67 

The Cape route continued to be discussed academically as a 
possible steam route until the opening of the Suez Canal put a 
final quietus on its consideration as a principal artery of British 
communications with the East. Actually, the Cape line was used 
for purposes of steam navigation only when new steamers were 
sent out from England for regular service in Indian and eastern 
waters, until the rise of the South African and Australasian colo¬ 
nies demanded steam service of their own late in the century. 

Low, of, cit, } I, 520, 5263 James Douglas, Bombay and Western India ) II, 
33 ^ n. 

67 Asiatic Journal , III, N.S., Pt. II, 197. 



CHAPTER V 


TENTATIVE TRIALS OF THE SUEZ PASSAGE 

T HE possibilities and advantages in steam communication 
between England and India appealed as strongly to 
the English in Bombay as to the Calcutta community. 
This interest did not take form in projects for lines of steamships 
which would employ the route around the Cape of Good Hope, 
however. Instead, it focused on one plan after another for the 
use of steam in the opening up of new lines by way of the Red 
Sea and Egypt, or, as a possible alternative, by way of the 
Persian Gulf, Mesopotamia, and Syria. Steam lines around 
the Cape would benefit Bombay relatively little, while the de¬ 
velopment of either of the more direct routes between Europe 
and India would tend greatly to reduce the isolation of the Bom¬ 
bay Presidency and increase its relative importance. Of the two 
natural channels leading toward Europe, the inhabitants of 
Bombay had greater faith in the Red Sea, partly because a shorter 
overland journey was required to reach European waters, and 
partly because at the outset it was better known than the other. x 

Ground was broken for a steam route by way of the Red Sea by 
Mountstuart Elphinstone, soon after he became Governor of 
Bombay. 2 In May, 1823, when Calcutta was first taking up the 
idea of the Cape route, Elphinstone proposed to the Court of 
Directors in London that the East India Company undertake the 
opening of the Red Sea route with steam vessels. Earlier at¬ 
tempts to make regular use of this line by employing sailing 
vessels had been fruitless. As Elphinstone pointed out, cc al¬ 
though the whole passage from London to Bombay was once made 
in two months, yet it generally takes three months to go from 
Bombay even to Suez. The great advantage of a steam boat is, 
that it is independent of wind. It would therefore go through 
all the seas between this and England, and at all seasons, nearly 
at the same rate.” He thought that by means of steam vessels 

] Asiatic Journal , XXIV, O.S., 719-722; XXV, O.S., 40-42. 

2 Park Pap., 1831-1832, No. 735. — I, 28. 

103 



104 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

communication between Bombay and London might be made 
more rapid than that between Bombay and Calcutta. As to the 
European end of such a line, he said, “ We have here alluded to 
the circuitous communication by the Straits of Gibraltar, because 
in time of war, when quick communication is most required, we 
might not be able to send the packets through France. . .” Two 
steam vessels on each side of the Isthmus of Suez, he thought, 
would suffice for regular contact. “ Egypt,” he remarked, “ has 
seldom or never been so disturbed as to stop our packets, but if it 
were so, the steam boats might for the time go to some port in 
Syria on the one side and to Bussorah on the other, so that the 
packet would still pass with great rapidity, though not so quick as 
through Egypt.” 3 4 

The Bombay Government made another similar proposal 
after the voyage of the Enterprise from England to Calcutta in 
1825—1826, but the Court of Directors took no notice. The 
finances of the East India Company were in bad condition, and 
the Directors were a body of men to whom any change was 
anathema. Besides, the respective merits of the two routes men¬ 
tioned by Governor Elphinstone were unknown, and remained 
undetermined for years to come. 

Pending actual attempts to employ steam vessels between 
Indian and western ports, the estimated advantages and difficul¬ 
ties of the route proposed by Governor Elphinstone were played 
up in contemporary journals according to their respective geo¬ 
graphical and editorial prejudices. The Calcutta India Gazette., 
for example, as was to be expected, believed that “ It [the over¬ 
land route] appears to be on the whole much less commodious 
. . . than that round the Cape of Good Hope. . . A person 
may consume ten months, where he only calculated on four or 
five being necessary.” 4 The Oriental Herald, published in 
London by one James Silk Buckingham, who had had long and un¬ 
pleasant experience in India and had several times used the over¬ 
land passage, spoke of the proposed communication in dubious 
vein. Plundering Arabs, heated desert, lack of fuel, and the 
plague, he pointed out, furnished almost insuperable obstacles: 
and he concluded that, a However desirable such a speedy com¬ 
munication may be, it is not likely, until the obstacles . . . shall 
be removed, to be carried into effect.” 5 The Bombay Courier , on 
the other hand, saw — 

3 Park Pap., 1831—1832, No. 735. — II, 72 6 . 

4 India Gazette , 27 Nov., 1833, quoted in Park Paf-, 1834, No. 478, 26. 

5 Oriental Herald, I, 87. Cf. ibid., II, 6x55 ibid., Ill, 145. 



TENTATIVE TRIALS OF THE SUEZ ROUTE ioj 

An open sea . . . exempt for eight months of the yptr 
from stormy and unsettled weather, [which] extends to fch£ 
straits of Babelmandel, while the island of Socotra affords'* 
a convenient situation for a depot of fuel. On passing these 
straits, the Red Sea, like a vast natural canal, extends nearly 
due north for upwards of a thousand miles, till it almost 
meets the Mediterranean 3 and it is hardly possible to look at 
a map of the w r orld without receiving a kind of impression 
that nature, in her physical operations, had intended those 
two seas to facilitate the communication between Europe, 
Asia, and Africa, and left it to the enterprise and ingenuity 
of man to take advantage of her arrangements. 0 

This was a rather idealistic picture. Actually, the Red Sea, 
while truly offering a long, navigable channel, was beset with al¬ 
most every kind of impediment and danger known to navigation. 
Its shores were rocky, with promontories extending far into the 
narrow sea^to catch unwary vessels. Its bed was in places almost 
bottomless, affording no hold for anchors, in others cluttered with 
coral reefs and submerged rocks. The winds of the Sea were 
notoriously fickle, ceasing entirely for hours or days, or coming 
in tempests to drive unlucky vessels ashore within the reach of 
watchful and conscienceless plunderers. 

Other dangers appealed equally to the imagination, and one 
great deterrent to the regular use of either the route through 
Egypt or that through Mesopotamia and Syria was the dreaded 
plague, which visited all the countries of western Asia and Egypt 
nearly every year during the hot season. 7 A canal across the 
Isthmus of Suez, was not infrequently mentioned as a possible 
solution of this and other problems.” But such suggestions were 
of little avail at so early a date, and the horrors attending the 
outbreaks of disease in Egypt and Syria were unquestionably one 
of the most potent factors in delaying the actual opening of either 
of the shorter land passages in conjunction with steam lines. Fear 

® Bombay Courier, 25 March, 1826, quoted in Asiatic Journal, XXII, O.S., 607. 

7 Pari, Pap,, 1834, No. 478, App. 4, p. 245 Asiatic Journal, XX, O.S., 3595 ibid., 
XXIV, O.S., 719 j ibid,, XXV, O.S., 40-42; Oriental Herald, I, 84-87, 176; ibid., 
IV, *;7$; Mrs. Col. El wood, Harr at we of a Journey Overland to India, II, 395 if.; 
Frederick horbes, A.M., M.IX, Thesis on the Nature and History of the Plague . . , 
for which a Gold Medal was awarded by the Faculty of Medicine of the University 
of Edinburgh. . . (Edinburgh, 1840); Lieut. H. Congreve, A Suggestion for the 
Cure of the Cholera (London, 1842). Plague specifics suggested by medical author¬ 
ities and travellers varied from the wearing of medicated clothing and abstention 
from meats to immersions in olive oil or the inhaling of a protoxide of nitrogen.” 

8 Asiatic Journal, XVIII, O.S., 330; ibid., XX, O.S., 364, 538-542, 600; Oriental 
Herald , V, 5-9; Pari . Pap., 1834, No. 478, App. 6, pp. 28-34; Niles ’ 1 Register, 
XXXI, 92. 



106 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

of the plague gradually subsided after its characteristics became 
better known. Dread of nomadic desert tribes, which had a more 
potent foundation, also was being steadily reduced throughout 
this early period by the strong arm of Mehemet Ali, first in the 
Egyptian desert, and later even in Syria and Arabia. 9 

Meanwhile, Governor Elphinstone continued his plans for the 
navigation of the Red Sea by commencing a series of systematic 
surveys, and in 1827 at the close of his term he displayed his 
faith in the value of this route by making his way to England via 
Egypt. 10 His successor at Bombay, Sir John Malcolm, was a no 
less zealous advocate of the Red Sea route to England. During 
his energetic administration marine surveys were continued, coal 
depots were established, and the first concrete proof was given of 
the feasibility of steam navigation between Bombay and Egypt. 
Immediately after taking up his duties at the Bombay Presidency, 
Malcolm outlined a plan for opening the entire line between 
Bombay and England via Egypt, basing his plan on the use of 
fast steamships. His main proposal rested on the idea that, to be 
sufficiently practical, steam voyages must be made in each direction 
at least once per month. However, as a preliminary arrangement, 
he suggested that one steamer be put into operation on either side 
of the Isthmus of Suez, until practical experiment had shown the 
best method of increasing the service. He believed that by proper 
cooperation at the Isthmus, mails and despatches might be trans¬ 
mitted between India and England in as brief a time as 34 days, 
and that the expense of such transit could be defrayed by a heavy 
postage on private letters. 11 

By way of adding example to precept, Malcolm’s steam plans 
and other official despatches were forwarded via, the overland 
route to the Court of Directors in December, 1828. These papers 
stated the Governor’s intention of making an experimental steam 
voyage in the following year, by sending the Enter-prize steamer, 
with the consent of the Supreme Government of India, from 
Bombay to Suez. He requested of the Court that they make ar¬ 
rangements for another steam vessel to come to Alexandria, 
bringing out mails and passengers for India, and receiving those 
homeward bound. 

Believing that his plan would be approved, Governor Malcolm 

9 David George Hogarth, The Penetration of Arabia: A Record of the Develop¬ 

ment of Western. Knowledge concerning the Arabian Peninsula (New York, 1004.) 
pp. 101-104. 7 ’ 

10 London Times, 15 March, 1884; Low, History of the Indian Navv I 
525-J26. 

11 Barker, Egypt and Syria under the Last Five Sultans of Turkey, II, 1*3. 



TENTATIVE TRIALS OF THE SUEZ ROUTE 107 

spent the next few months in making preparations for the steam 
experiment. He had already established one coal depot at Mocha, 
on the Arabian coast. In February, 1829, the Thetis , of the 
Indian Navy, a brig consort carrying a large cargo of coal, and a 
native ship with miscellaneous naval supplies, were despatched 
from Bombay to establish depots at Aden, Jeddah, Cosseir, and 
Suez. 1 ' Soon afterward a government bulletin was issued, an¬ 
nouncing November 15 as the date for despatching the steamer 
from Bombay, and stating the rates of postage to be collected on 
private letters.' J Meanwhile, John Barker, the English Consul- 
General in Egypt, had secured permission from the Egyptian 
Government for the transmission of English mails and passengers 
through the domain of the Pasha, who was on the whole well 
disposed toward the project. 

The immediate results of these well-laid plans were altogether 
disheartening. No vessel was despatched by any of the authorities 
in London to cooperate with the Enterfrize at Alexandria, and no 
steps were taken to provide for the carriage of the expected mails 
and passengers from Egypt to Malta, which was then the ter¬ 
minus of the British Government steam packet line. It was 
rumored in London that the Court of Directors had tried to 
charter a steamer of adequate size and power for the voyage to 
Egypt, but, becoming appalled at the expense which would be 
involved, hastily washed their hands of the whole proposition of 
steam transit for the time being. 11 

However that may have been, the Enterfrize failed to keep 
faith on her part. Although repaired expressly for the trial trip 
to Suez, the vessel had hardly set out for that destination when 
accidents to her machinery made a return to port imperative. 
There it was decided that the steamer was unfit for so strenuous 
and long-sustained a voyage, and having failed to make history 
on this opportune occasion, the Enterfrize thus passed ingloriously 
from the scene. 

Of the several persons who had hoped to take passage in a 
steamer from England and continue in the Enterfrize to India, 
only two made their way to Suez. These two were Messrs. J. W. 
Taylor and Thomas Wag-horn. Taylor had been commissioned 
by the Court of Directors to make certain investigations of the 
Suez route as a steam passage, but he was primarily interested in 
establishing a commercial line of steamers on either side of Egypt, 
between England and Calcutta. His rival, Waghorn, also car- 

12 A static Journal , XXVIII, O.S., 103, 339, 622. 

13 Ibitl.) I, N.S,, Pt, II, 21 6-2 17 5 Oriental Herald, XXIII, 320. 

14 Asiatic Journal, XXVIII, O.S., 50 6 ibid,, I, N.S., Pt. I, 227-27S; Barker, 

op . d/., II, 125-128. 



108 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

ried despatches from the Court of Directors addressed to the 
authorities in Bombay, and hinted darkly at being personally 
commissioned to examine the practicability of the route. 15 Almost 
simultaneously, still a third young exponent of steam communica¬ 
tion, Lieutenant F. R. Chesney, arrived in Egypt where he was 
furnished with a list of queries from the Court of Directors. 
The situation was prophetic. Chesney became the great apostle 
of a steam route to India by the Euphrates River and the Persian 
Gulf, Waghorn became a leading exponent of the Suez, line, while 
Taylor lost his life in an attempt to determine the relative ad¬ 
vantages of the two proposed routes. 

Sir John Malcolm was cautioned by the Court of Directors at 
the outset of his official term not to waste money on speculative 
ventures. The policy of the East India Company was to leave 
such enterprises as the development of steam navigation within 
the bounds of its monopoly to private initiative. 1 *’ Malcolm be¬ 
lieved, however, that steam communication could not succeed if 
left to private agencies because of the magnitude of the task of 
building, fuelling, and operating steam vessels. So while giving 
every encouragement to commercial undertakings of this nature, 
he lost no time in making plans to develop a steam line in con¬ 
nection with the Bombay Marine. In 1828 the hull of a steam 
vessel was put under construction in the Government dockyards 
at Bombay, and engines were ordered from the famous builder 
Maudslay in England. 17 

The failure of the Enterprize did not in the least interrupt 
work on the new vessel, which, in honor of and perhaps to soothe 
the Chairman of the Court of Directors, was christened the Hugh 
Lindsay. The vessel, of 411 tons burden and equipped with two 
eighty-horse-power engines, was launched in October, 1829, and 
was immediately prepared for a voyage to Suez. 18 No delay was 
required for the establishment of coal depots, those prepared for 
the Enterprize being already available. The Hugh Lindsay was 
despatched from Bombay on her maiden voyage March 20, 1830, 

15 Annual Register, XCII (1850), Pt. II, 198-199; Barker, of. oil., II, 127. 

16 Parl ■ Pa t; 1831-1832, No. 735.—I, 288; ibid.., No. 735.—II, 759. 

17 Oriental Herald, XXIII, 320; Asiatic Journal, XXVIII, O.S., 103; Low, 
of. cit., I, 520; Pari. Paf., 1834, No. 478, pp. 112 S. 

18 Pari. Paf., 1834, No. 478, App. 17, p. i I2 ; Low, of. cit., I, 520. The 
Hugh Ltndsay was not the first steam vessel to be built and used in Indian waters. 
That honor appears to belong to the river steamer Diana, launched at Calcutta in 
1823. The Calcutta John Bull is quoted as saying on the completion of the vessel, 
“ We her as the harbinger of future vessels of her kind who will waft us to our 
native shores with speed and pleasure.” — Low, of. cit., I, 412 n. s Asiatic Journal, 



TENTATIVE TRIALS OF THE SUEZ ROUTE 109 

commanded by the experienced and redoubtable Captain James 
H. Wilson. 10 The vessel arrived safely at Suez on April 22, 
having touched at Aden, Jeddah, and Cosseir. In one respect the 
voyage proved a disappointment. Not only did the Court of 
Directors fail to despatch a steamer to Alexandria to correlate 
with the Hugh Lindsay, but they even failed to announce the 
trial voyage. As a result, there were few mails and passengers 
at Suez with which to return to India, and the effectiveness of the 
trial trip was seriously compromised. 

Nevertheless, the results of the first steam voyage up the Red 
Sea were significant. They showed that even against head winds a 
rapid passage could be made to Suez by steam, for of the 33 days 
spent on the voyage, 12 had been required for coaling. The time 
actually consumed on the passage out was 21 days, 6 hours. In 
the second place, it argued that for long voyages, vessels of 
greater fuel capacity were needed. The Hugh Lindsay had 
begun the voyage carrying a much larger fuel cargo than her 
builders had intended, and this had been barely sufficient. The 
weight of fhe coal sank the vessel so deeply into the water that 
progress was seriously impeded on the first part of the trip in each 
direction. A third result was the demonstration that such com¬ 
munication, if continued, would be exceedingly expensive; it 
amounted almost literally to “ burning rupees ” for fuel. Yet in 
one respect, at least, the experiment justified the expectations of 
the Bombay Government. The mails carried to Suez on this first 
steam voyage reached England in 59 days, which for the time 
was an extremely brief voyage, although in the estimation of the 
East India Company, this fact did not counterbalance the cost of 
vessel and equipment and the expense of operation. 20 Notwith¬ 
standing the various difficulties and objections encountered on the 
first occasion, the Bombay Government undertook other experi¬ 
mental voyages, one later in the same year and others at irregular 
intervals, until the sending out of other steam vessels from Eng¬ 
land made a permanent and regular service possible. 21 

19 Oapt. Wilson had already seen long service in Indian waters. Before a 
Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1834, he reported that of his 21 
years of service, 13 had been spent in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. In taking 
command of the Hugh Limlsay, he gave up a good position in the regular naval 
service because of his conviction that steam would eventually take the place of 
sails. Although he remained a leading advocate of the route he thus helped to open 
up, he received no distinction for his services before his death in 1875 .'—Pari . Pap, 9 
1834, No. 478, App. 17, p. 112; Low, op. eh I, 526-532. 

p ar i m Pap,> 1831-1832, No. 735.— -II, 745—756. The cost of each round 
trip was estimated at 23,000 rupees, or about £1700. 

23 A static Journal) III, N.S., Ft. II, x 97 3 “ Steam Navigation Extended and 
Made Profitable, n in the Oriental Herald , XXII, 52-61. 



no 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


Upon his retiring from office late in 1830, Governor Malcolm 
in his official report to the Company’s Directors summed up his 
efforts in behalf of steam navigation and outlined a steam program 
for the future. In preparing this prospectus, he was largely as¬ 
sisted by his brother, Sir Charles Malcolm, who, as Superintend¬ 
ent of the Indian Navy, had had immediate charge of the first 
steam voyages, and by Capt. Wilson, of the Hugh Lindsay. The 
report advocated the establishment under the Bombay Govern¬ 
ment of four steam vessels for the Indian service, each with about 
fifteen days’ coal capacity, three of which should be kept in 
constant service on the Indian side of the Isthmus of Suez, leaving 
the fourth in reserve. This establishment, it was thought, would 
suffice for a regular monthly communication for nine months of 
the year, for it was generally believed at this time that the service 
between Bombay and Suez would have to be suspended for three 
months during the height of the southwest monsoon. Malcolm 
believed that while this service would be expensive, the cost could 
be largely or entirely defrayed by receipts from passengers and 
letters, which might be carried from Bombay to Suez in an average 
of 25 days, and to England in about double that time." This 
recommendation is of the more interest because after several years 
of doubt and hesitation and wastage of money in profitless ven¬ 
tures, this was essentially the plan put into operation by the East 
India Company. 

Thus far, one element of a thorough test of the Suez route had 
been lacking: no attempt had been made by the home authorities 
to establish a steam link between Malta and Alexandria, even for 
experimental purposes. Because of this fact, even after the first 
two voyages of the Hugh Lindsay, the eventual possibilities of 
the new route, should steam be applied to both sections of the 
route, were matters of speculation, and opinions varied widely. 
Years more must have passed without further light being shed on 
this question but for the fact that the successors of Elphinstone 
and Malcolm combined in general the hopes of the one and the 
practical experiments of the other. Thus, regardless of the atti¬ 
tude of the Court of Directors and th& Bengal Government, the 
Hugh Lindsay was sent to Suez on further experimental voyages 
as frequently as the condition of the vessel, fuel supplies, and the 
seasons would permit. 

In 183I3 one of the sailing units of the Bombay Marine was 
sent to Suez bearing a despatch to the Court of Directors. This 

22 Pari. Paf., 1831-1832, No. 735. — II, 74 . 5; ibid 3831-1832, No. 
pp. 223-225. 


734 , 



TENTATIVE TRIALS OF THE SUEZ ROUTE 


nr 


requested that early in 1832 a steamer be sent from Malta, then 
the terminus of English steam service in the Mediterranean, to 
Alexandria to receive the mails and passengers to be conveyed to 
Egypt by the Hugh Lindsay at that time." 3 Assuming that the 
home authorities would not suffer this voyage to pass unnoticed, 
announcements were made in all the Indian Presidencies that the 
Hugh Lindsay would leave Bombay for Suez on January 5, 
1832. 21 

The voyage was made according to schedule. Fuelling facil¬ 
ities had been improved for this trip, so that the passage was made 
in the remarkably brief time of 21 days, 16 hours, against ex¬ 
ceedingly heavy winds and seas, making this perhaps the greatest 
exploit of steam power up to that time. In other respects the 
voyage was less noteworthy. The Hugh Lindsay’s passengers, 
who made their way from Suez to Alexandria in the expectation 
of finding there a steam vessel to convey them to Europe, were 
altogether disappointed. No such vessel appeared, nor could 
the English.Consul-General, John Barker, throw any light on the 
intentions of the Directors. The passengers could only await the 
departure of some chance sailing vessel which might carry them 
on to Europe. Only after a month of impatient waiting were 
travellers and mails enabled to proceed to Malta, whence they 
found their way to England on a Government steam packet. 20 

Upon the return of the Hugh Lindsay to Bombay empty, the 
disappointment of that English community was intense. It began 
to appear that the cause of rapid communication with the home 
country was about to fail at the moment of partial success. The 
prevailing sentiment was expressed by the Bombay Courier , which 
said, in referring to the barren results of the first voyages of the 
Hugh Lindsay: 

We have looked in vain for a single advertisement, or 
even paragraph alluding to the subject, in the papers from 
home, which, if it had appeared, would have had the effect 
of loading the steamer with packets for India, instead of 
allowing her to return, as she has, to the surprise and dis¬ 
appointment of everyone, with one or two dozen letters at 
the utmost. 20 

23 Asiatic Journal, IX, N.S., Pt. II, 74, 

24 The reported discovery of fresh water in the desert between Suez and Cairo 
about this time gave a decided impulse to the use of the overland route by travellers. 
See the Journal of the Royal Geog, Soc. of London, I, 252-253; Asiatic Journal, IV, 
N.S., Pt. II, 96. 

25 Pari. Pap,, 1831-1832, No. 735. — II, 766. 

26 Asiatic Journal, IX, N.S., Pt II, 74. 



112 , 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


Obviously little could be accomplished with the means at hand as 
long as general lack of interest in England and the opposition of 
the Court of Directors could nullify whatever initiative was 
shown in India. 

When it became known in England, chiefly through exchanges 
from Indian papers, what unsupported efforts had been made by 
the Bombay Government for the establishment of a steam route, 
loud protests were voiced against the non-progressive policy of 
the Company. By 1832, the whole matter of improved com¬ 
munication with India by means of steam vessels was beginning 
to recover from the set-back experienced in 1826 at the time of 
the voyage of the Enterprize. As it had been the English mer¬ 
cantile houses which had financed the Cape voyage of that vessel, 
so now it was the mercantile and financial interests principally 
which were becoming convinced that there would be advantages 
in a Suez route. The idea was evolving that mercantile transac¬ 
tions of English firms operating in India would be jnuch facili¬ 
tated by a rapid despatch of commercial papers, even though the 
articles of trade themselves might be exchanged as usual in slow 
sailing vessels around the Cape of Good Hope. 

One of the first steps taken by commercial associations in Eng¬ 
land toward establishing a practical basis for the use of the Suez 
route lay in petitions to Parliament for the repeal of Act 59 Geo. 
Ill, Chapter 3, which prohibited the levying of any postage rates 
higher than twopence on single letters (of one ounce or less), and 
on other packages in proportion, to and from the East Indies. 27 
While the law itself was not repealed in time to aid some private 
steamship concerns which were interested in establishing lines 
leading to India, the agitation resulting from the discussion of the 
Company’s policy with regard to communication bore good fruit. 28 

The Court of Directors of the East India Company thus far 
were as dilatory in taking up seriously the matter of improved 
communication with the East as the Company’s governments 
in the Indian Presidencies were active. After the removal 
of the Company’s trade monopoly in India commercial motives 
were no longer operative in the Company’s policy, and only 
political ones remained. 20 For political purposes the Company 

27 Parl - Pa P-> 1831-1832, No. 735. — II, 766; Asiatic Journal, V, N.S., Pt. II, 

87.^ Apparently this law had been forgotten or had been ignored by some of the 
India authorities on previous occasions, when they had sanctioned postage rates as 
high as four shillings an ounce on English mails. 

28 Asiatic Journal , X, N.S., Pt. II, 87. 

29 Pari. Pap., 1831-1832, No. 735. —II, 731; ibid., 1834, No. 478, App. 

2, p. 11. 



TENTATIVE TRIALS OF THE SUEZ ROUTE 113 

did not consider it practicable to spend several hundred thousand 
pounds in merely speeding up their despatches. 30 Even their 
attitude toward purely private ventures in steam navigation was a 
curious mixture of hope and fear. If these projects succeeded in 
establishing lines to India, the Company would inevitably profit 
from the improved contacts. But the Directors were apparently 
afraid, at the same time, that if the English public should become 
interested in the matter, it might result in some way in increased 
financial burdens on the Company. 31 It was therefore decided 
by the Court that the safer policy would be to discourage any and 
all efforts in the promotion of steam navigation, especially on the 
European side of the Isthmus of Suez. For this reason, sundry 
despatches were sent out to the Indian governments soon after 
1830 forbidding any more steam voyages to the Red Sea; but as 
these mandates were despatched around the Cape of Good Hope, 
they did not reach their destinations in time to prevent some of 
the further experiments already mentioned. 32 

For that matter, the worst fears of the Court were presently 
realized. An interested English public demanded governmental 
action. Even by 1832 the Government was beginning to evince 
signs of interest in the matter of access to the East. The late 
political upheavals in Algeria and European Turkey had con¬ 
siderable influence. After 1830 there were persistent rumors and 
evidences of French political activities, in Egypt. Besides this, 
indications were not wanting that the differences between the 
Pasha of Egypt, Mehemet Ali, and his imperial master, the Sul¬ 
tan, which produced a grave crisis in Syria in 1831 and the years 
following, were prompted by Russia in accordance with her secret 
schemes of aggrandizement. 33 These developments tended to 
focus attention on the condition of the East India Company, which 
led to no few changes in the Company’s methods. 

In January, 1832, the House of Commons ordered the appoint¬ 
ment of a Select Committee, to investigate “ the present State of 
the Affairs of the East India Company, and to inquire into the 
State of Trade between Great Britain, the East Indies, and 

30 It was estimated in 1832 that to establish a bi-monthly communication between 
Bombay and Suez would cost the East India Company about £100,000 per year. 

31 Partly to discover whether there were hope of profit, and partly to neutralize 
hostile criticism, the Company did at intervals send out questionnaires to its func¬ 
tionaries for information as to costs and possible returns from steam enterprises. 
The operating expenses of the Hugh Lindsay on the second and third voyages to 
Suez, however, were twice the original estimate, and the Court were aghast at the 
probable expense of a regular and more extensive service. — Park Pap, } 1831-1832, 
No. 735. —II, App. 25, pp. 752—759. 

32 Ibid., 1834, No. 478, pp. 10, ix. 

33 Oriental Herald, XIX, 256-257. 



114 


BRITISH ROUTRS I’O INDIA 


China. 1 ’ al Charles Grant, the President of the India Board, was 
appointed Chairman of a large Committee of seventy-one mem¬ 
bers to carry out this commission.™ The work of the Committee 
embraced a great variety of matters connected with trade, finance, 
and administration. As one feature of these investigations, the 
India Board sent out questionnaires to various officials connected 
with the Company’s administration asking for information on 
u Steam Navigation between India and Egypt, and between dif¬ 
ferent parts of Asia.” Considerable evidence was thus collected 
relating to the work of steam committees in the Presidencies, trial 
steam voyages up the Red Sea, surveys in Egypt, and preliminary 
investigations of the Euphrates River as a possible waterway to 
the East. Most of this data appeared inconclusive to the Com¬ 
mittee, 80 and, as some experiments were still in progress at the 
time of its report in August, 1832, no recommendations on 
this head were made to Parliament. The report merely con¬ 
tained the statement that, cc Evidence has likewise been received 
as to the means of extending the trade with Asia, the Navigation 
by Steam, etc.” 37 

Meanwhile, for other purposes, English steam lines had been 
established in the Mediterranean. This body of water, of course, 
lay completely outside of the sphere of the East India Company, 
and concern for the protection and development of British in¬ 
terests here devolved upon the British Admiralty. Before Eng¬ 
lish steam navigation companies were prepared to undertake the 
establishment of commercial steam lines in the Mediterranean, 
the British Government had reached the conclusion that armed 
steamers must be added to the Royal Navy to keep pace with the 
progress of continental rivals. As early as 1825 the first vessels 
were put into commission for this purpose, and the nucleus of a 
steam fleet was thus created. A few of these vessels, all of which 
were to a large degree experimental, were stationed with the 
regular Navy, while others, for moral as well as practical pur¬ 
poses, were placed in regular service on some part of the line 
between London and the British naval base at Malta. 38 In 1832 
the Admiralty had three armed steam packet vessels in regular 
service between Gibraltar and Malta. These had replaced five 

84 Park Pap., 1831-1832, No. 734, p. [2]. 

35 Ibid., No. 735. — I, 2635 ibid., — VI$ ibid., — II, 752; (Sir) William 
Foster, “Tlie India Board (1784.—1858)in Trans, of the Royal Hist . Soc., 3d 
Ser., XI, 61-85. 

36 g e g ev idence received: Park Pa},, 1831-1832, No. 735. — II, 119-130. 

37 Ibid., No. 734, p. 60. 

88 Ibid., 1837, No. 539, p. 115. 



TENTATIVE TRIALS OF THE SUEZ ROUTE 115 

sailing vessels previously used on this section. The line between 
England and Spanish ports was at that time still being cared for 
by sailing vessels, of which there were live in service. Plans 
were being matured, however, for an increase in the number, 
power, and range of the units of the steam packet service, and all 
of this was effected before steam lines were in regular use in 
eastern waters. 39 

These developments in European waters still left the line be¬ 
tween Malta and Alexandria uncared for. 10 This missing link 
was one of the greatest problems to be overcome in the inaugura¬ 
tion of steam communication between England and India partly 
because of the intricacies of bureaucratic government in London, 
where the Court of Directors of the East India Company came 
into contact with the Admiralty only through the Board of Con¬ 
trol, or, for some purposes, the Treasury and the Post Office. 
Moreover, to complete any of the shorter lines to the East, 
foreign territory had to be crossed, and in making any such ar¬ 
rangements. the services of the Foreign Office had to be enlisted. 
A mere enumeration of these few of the many difficulties in¬ 
volved will go far toward explaining why progress toward the 
desired end was so slow. 

One of the principal difficulties was the enormous expense 
involved before any steam line could be put into regular operation. 
This alone was sufficient to prevent the presidencies from making 
further strides in this direction because of the hostility of the 
Court of Directors toward the spending of money on any such 
doubtful ventures. Furthermore, the two leading Indian Presi¬ 
dencies showed a strong tendency from the first to disagree on 
the best ways and means of accomplishing an obj ect desired by 
both, and their lack of cooperation was of no little importance in 
neutralising the effectiveness both of their own endeavors and 
those coming from other sources. These and other discourage¬ 
ments did not prevent the springing up of a group of individual 
promoters, contemporaneously with the first steam surveys, 
whose efforts, together with those of Indian steam associations, 
had considerable effect in developing the interest of all classes in 
England and in India in the possibilities and advantages of new 
and rapid means of communication. 

The promoters on whom the limelight focused were young 
and enterprising men, largely without capital themselves, but who 
had confidence that they could form steam navigation companies 

39 Ibid., 1S34> No. 478, p. 25 of Evidence. 

40 Ibid., 1831—1832, No. 735. — II, 751, 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


116 

capable of making large profits from government subsidies or 
monopolistic rates on mails, passengers, and goods to be trans¬ 
ported. From the beginning the attitude of the Bombay author¬ 
ities and leading citizens was against such speculative undertak¬ 
ings, on the ground that they were foredoomed to failure. In 
Calcutta, on the other hand, they were welcomed as the logical 
agencies to undertake projects in which there was likelihood of 
success and substantial earnings. Calcutta, therefore, became the 
eastern rendezvous of those who aspired to be founders of large 
and opulent steam corporations employing either the Cape or the 
Red Sea route to Europe. 

One of the earliest of these schemes to reach an advanced stage 
of development was that of James W. Taylor. His plan, as out¬ 
lined in a prospectus issued in 1829, was — 

No less than to ply between London and Alexandria, 
touching at Gibraltar and Malta, with four steamers, the 
least of which, of 550 tons, is to carry from forty to fifty 
passengers. They are to begin to sail in August [1830] . . . 
and afterward to follow, the first and fifteenth of every 
month. On the other side of the Isthmus of Egypt there 
will be employed six steamers of the same dimensions, to ply 
between Calcutta and Suez, touching at Madras and Bombay. 

. . . Passengers are to be booked through . . . and to be 
furnished with the necessary accommodations and subsistence 
in their journeys across the desert between Alexandria and 
Suez. There are already prepared the necessary steamers 
. . . twelve in all, two being to replace such as may become 
disabled by accidents. The British Government in India 
agrees to come to the aid of the Company with certain facil¬ 
ities for the first two years.' 11 

The plan as advertised pointed out that the promoters asked no 
cash subscriptions from the public, but only a subsidy for two years 
after their vessels should begin operating. At the expiration of 
this period they would give up subsidies and expect to combine on 
the basis of profits from government contracts and public patron¬ 
age at specified rates and schedules. 42 

The Calcutta and Madras Presidencies gave the project some 
support, although they would have preferred a line around the 
continent of Africa. The adherence of Bombay was considered 
essential to the plan by its promoters, and, having completed his 

41 Asiatic Journal, III, N.S., Pt. II, 85 ; Barker, of. cit., II, 129-130. 

42 Pari. Pap., 1831-1832, No. 735. —II, App. 25, pp. 727-7305 Asiatic 
Journal, III, N.S., Pt. II, 55. 



TENTATIVE TRIALS OF THE SUEZ ROUTE 117 

organization in England, Taylor left London in October, 1829, 
to carry his project to Bombay in person. His departure at that 
moment was due to his desire to anticipate Thomas Waghorn, 
who was preparing to attempt a trip to India by way of Egypt in 
record time. Taylor’s passage was replete with incidents and 
thrills. Leaving London on October 21, he made his way to 
Suez via Calais, Marseilles, and Malta, arriving in Alexandria 
after a fortunate voyage on November 8. He proceeded pres¬ 
ently to Suez, where he arrived after a trip of 27 days net from 
London — a real feat for that period. From Suez Taylor reached 
Bombay on the same sailing vessel which bore his rival, Waghorn. 

At Bombay Taylor encountered numerous difficulties. Gov¬ 
ernor Malcolm was at that time engaged in plans for the opening 
of a steam line to Suez under Government auspices, employing 
one steam vessel, the Hugh Lindsay, and other units of the Bom¬ 
bay Marine for the purpose. In consequence, he was not inclined 
to give countenance to the new scheme.' 13 Taylor strongly sued 
for favor and some temporary support in the form of a subsidy, 
offering to modify his original terms by granting the Company 
the use of his vessels in time of war. He even adroitly suggested 
that the proposed steam line be called the “ Malcolm Line of 
Steam Packets.” 41 However, the Governor and his Council re¬ 
mained incredulous that Taylor could redeem his extensive 
pledges, while they were certain of the “ almost incalculable ad¬ 
vantages ” which would result from a line of government owned 
and operated steamers. 40 

Taylor was not yet at the end of his resources. Finding the 
Suez route practically closed to him, he turned to a possible alter¬ 
native passage. The Persian Gulf and Tigris-Euphrates route 
was without European competitors, and had not been surveyed 
as a highway between East and West. In once more returning to 
England, then, further to consult the Court of Directors on his 
steam plans, he decided to proceed through Mesopotamia, which 
had been suggested as a possible link in a new route to India. He 
also welcomed the occasion to proceed up the Tigris River to 
Bagdad, in order to visit his brother, the British Consul, who was 
strongly imbued with the idea that the ultimate line of com¬ 
munication between England and India would lie through Mes¬ 
opotamia — an idea never wholly discarded since. 

Taylor left Bombay May 2, 1830, with a packet of despatches, 

43 Asiatic Journal, III, N.S., Pt. II, 86, 729; ibid., IV, N.S., Pt. II, 1325 Part, 
Paf., 1831-1832, No. 735. —II, App. 25, pp. 732, 734. 

44 Pari. Paf., tit sufra, pp. 732-735. 

45 Ibid., p. 727. 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


118 

in company with a small party of Englishmen who were attracted 
by the prospect of blazing a new and important trail through 
western Asia. Arriving at Basrah, the group proceeded up the 
Tigris to Bagdad, where they were detained several weeks by 
outbreaks of plague and by Arab disorders in the region to be 
traversed.' 111 In September the party undertook a survey of the 
middle reaches of the Euphrates River for steam purposes. 
Later at Mosul, Taylor secured commercial concessions from 
the Pasha of Bagdad, including “ the exclusive navigation of 
the Tigris for steam-vessels for a period of ten years,” and the 
monopoly of supply of certain articles, mainly war equipment, to 
the Pasha himself. At this time, Taylor was enthusiastic over the 
possibilities of the route, which, he said, was “ in every respect 
preferable to that of the Red Sea.” 17 

His enthusiasm, however, proved to be premature. Leaving 
Mosul, Taylor and his party were attacked by a large force of 
Arabs intent on plundering. Instead of tamely submitting, the 
Englishmen stoutly defended themselves. In the ensuing melee, 
Taylor and two of his associates were killed, the remaining three 
barely escaping with their lives by abandoning all their goods and 
luggage. “ Thus untimely fell the first projectors of the 
Euphrates Valley route of steam communication with the cast.” 4S 
With Taylor perished his elaborate plan of steam transit, and the 
Bombay Government continued its preparations to work the Suez 
route alone. 

After the death of Taylor, Thomas Waghorn was the most 
conspicuous of those who hoped to accomplish the herculean task 
of building up steam navigation lines by their individual efforts. 40 
Waghorn already suspected that the development of a steam line 
by way of the Cape of Good Hope was a forlorn hope. 00 For 
this reason, in returning to India to discover why no funds had 
reached him from Calcutta and other eastern communities for the 
construction or purchase of a steam vessel, he deemed it wise to 
adopt the Red Sea route, both because it promised a quicker pas- 

46 Asiatic Journal, III, N.S., Pt. II, 143. 

47 Ibid,., V, N.S., Pt. II, 46. C£. ibid., VI, N.S., Pt II, 130. His brother, Major 
Robert Taylor, was largely instrumental in arranging for these concessions. 

48 Low, op. cit., I, 5245 Asiatic Journal , V, N.S., Pt. II, 46. 

49 Late in 1834 an Indian naval officer, Capt. Adam Young, asked that the 
remainder of the Bengal Steam Fund be voted to him for experimental purposes. 
The Committee decided to pay it over only when a steam vessel had arrived at 
Calcutta from England in 75 days or less. Nothing further is heard of Young’s 
project. — Calcutta Courier, 17 Dec., 1834, quoted in Asiatic Journal XVII, N.S., 
Pt. II, 93. 

*° Asiatic Journal, III, N.S., Pt. II, 183-184, 1985 ibid., IV, N.S., Pt. II, 23-24. 



TENTATIVE TRIALS OF THE SUEZ ROUTE 119 

sage and because he might choose to identify himself with its 
development. The announcement by the Bombay Government 
that the Enterprize was about to be sent on a trial voyage to Suez 
in November, 1829, suggested that a test be made of the possible 
speed of transmitting despatches by this route to India, even 
though the home authorities decided against sending a steamer 
from Malta to Alexandria to facilitate the test. 51 For the purpose 
of making the desired test, a courier’s passports were necessary 5 
but the Court of Directors, to whom Waghorn applied for the 
papers, did not care to encourage what they termed a “ wild goose 
chase.” It was only after repeated applications, and as a means 
of getting rid of his importunities, that the desired passports and 
special despatches were prepared. Waghorn then planned his 
departure so as to reach Suez about the time that the Enterprize 
was scheduled to arrive. He hoped at the same time to overtake 
his rival and personal enemy, Taylor, who had already set out 
for Egypt on his way to India. Leaving London on October 28, 
he proceeded via Dover, Boulogne, Paris, Milan, and Trieste, 
thence by sail to Alexandria, and, continuing at once, arrived at 
Suez on December 8. The first portion of the whole distance, 
estimated at 2762 miles, had thus been traversed in 40-I- travelling 
days, which was not a bad showing. 

The Enterprize had not yet arrived from India, and no word 
had reached Egypt concerning her. Waghorn found it impossible 
long to restrain his impatience. Unwilling to return even to Cairo, 
and finding Suez an exceedingly uncomfortable berth, he under¬ 
took a foolhardy exploit in trying to defeat Taylor which sub¬ 
sequently gained for him more renown than many more worthy 
efforts. Obtaining a small, open boat at Suez, he sailed out alone 
into the Red Sea, and by keeping to the centre of that body of 
water hoped to fall in with the Enterprize. After continuing on 
his course for several days and nights, he reached Jeddah, some 
660 miles from Suez. Here he learned that an accident to the 
Enterprize had prevented her leaving India at all. Waghorn 
thereupon chartered a native sailing vessel intending to sail the 
entire distance to India. A short time after leaving port, however, 
his native crew became extortionate and mutinous, and for safety’s 
sake he had to remain constantly fully armed and on guard. 62 
Under these circumstances, he was very happy to fall in with the 

51 Bombay Courier, quoted in the Asiatic Journal, XXVIII, O.S., 103, 506, 6zz, 
759 > ibid., III, N.S., Pt. II, 13-15. It was rumored that the Court of Directors at 
first undertook to charter a privately-owned steamer for a Mediterranean voyage, 
offering* the proprietors £1000 for the trip5 but when the latter demanded £1500, 
the Court threw over the whole matter. — Barker, of. cit., II, iz%. 

52 Annual Register, XCII, Pt. II, 198-199. 



120 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


Thetis, a brig-of-war of the Bombay Marine, which had been sent 
to the Red Sea on the double mission of establishing a depot of 
coal for the Enterprise and undertaking a survey of the Red Sea 
as a prelude to the opening of regular steam lines. The Thetis 
had already established a coaling base at Suez, and was on the 
point of sailing for Bombay when intercepted. Waghorn gladly 
embraced the opportunity to discharge his native boat and continue 
in the Thetis. This arrangement had one great disadvantage, 
however, for on board was his rival, Taylor, who had sailed in 
the Thetis from Suez on the day following Waghorn’s arrival at 
that port. What passed between the two men during this long 
voyage, we do not know; but it is interesting in this connection to 
note that soon after Bombay was reached on March twenty-first, 
1830, Taylor began considering a line of communication through 
Mesopotamia and Syria to the Mediterranean as possibly more 
practicable than one through the Red Sea. r,:i 

In August, 1830, Waghorn was given his last opportunity as 
the projector of an independent steam corporation by the Calcutta 
Steam Committee. It was voted to devote the whole of the steam 
fund remaining after outstanding expenses had been paid toward 
the realization of the steam line advocated by Waghorn. The 
money was to be placed with an English financial house as agent, 
“ to see it applied strictly to the purposes of aiding in thcfcon- 
struction of a steam vessel . . . Mr. Waghorn giving personal 
security to refund one-half the amount should he fail to make 
the voyage out in seventy-five days.” r ' 1 Waghorn presently re¬ 
turned to England, but owing either to his inability to give the 
required security or to interest English investors in his scheme, 
it passed into the limbo of abandoned hopes. His zeal, how¬ 
ever, was not without accomplishment. Once the matter of 
steam transit was taken up in earnest by the minions of govern¬ 
ment he was found to be quite useful as a sort of official errand 

63 Low, of. tit., I, 522 - 524 ; Asiatic Journal, III, N.S., Pi. I, I’t. II, 1 5. 

** Asiatic Journal, IV, N.S., Pt. II, 12. Waghorn constantly complained that 

his efforts in behalf of steam communication were entirely at his own expense from 
the first. This is one of the factors which has caused him to be eulogised by his 
biographers. Probably his personal disbursements were large, but in June, 1830, 
the Bombay Government paid his expense account up to that time, amounting to 
£320 is. > and these or other expenses were paid by the Calcutta Steam Committee 
later. Cf. tbtd., pp. 12, 485 Pari. Paf ,, 1831-1832, No. 735.-11, App. 25, p. 736. 
Other funds with which he was entrusted at times were apparently misused. His 
propensity for exaggerated statements is illustrated by his testimony before a*Select 
Committee in 1834, when he boastfully spoke of having been at the Island off 
Socotra “ dozens of times,” which he presently admitted to mean a three or four 
times,” and there is some doubt as to the correctness of his revised statement. Cf, 
Park Paf., 1834, No. 478, Evidence, pp. 208-2325 Asiatic Journal , XXIN.S.! 
Pt. I, 249, * ” 



TENTATIVE TRIALS OF THE SUEZ ROUTE 


121 


boy/"’ His later work in Egypt as a transportation agent went 
far toward alleviating the discomforts of travel through Egypt. 

Between March, 1830, and May, 1833, the Hugh Lindsay 
made four voyages to the Red Sea, each of which clearly demon¬ 
strated the utility of that line/" These long and difficult voyages 
also went far toward pulling the little cruiser to pieces. In view 
of this and the disinclination of the Court of Directors to take 
any steps toward replacing the vessel, a meeting was held in 
Bombay on May 14, 1833, of those interested in the cause of 
steam navigation between England and India. The immediate 
object was to make arrangements for the development of the line 
from Bombay to Suez, “ it being concluded that the enterprize of 
private individuals . . . would accomplish the remaining dis¬ 
tance.” 57 This object was to be accomplished by the raising of a 
“ Steam Fund,” to be administered by a “ Steam Committee,” as 
at Calcutta. The Bombay Steam Fund differed from its proto¬ 
type, however, in being a kind of joint-stock enterprise: sub¬ 
scribers of xoo rupees or more were to benefit fro rata from any 
profits which might at any time accrue from the successful estab¬ 
lishment of a steam line. The plans of the Bombay Steam Com¬ 
mittee called for the construction of a new steam vessel in Eng¬ 
land, to be owned and operated by the Steam Society, and to 
replace or supplement the Hugh Lindsay. 

At the same time, a new movement was being started in Cal¬ 
cutta. It had there become apparent that individual enterprise 
could not succeed for the time being because of the refusal of the 
Court of Directors to grant subsidies to such projects. As this 
destroyed the hope of any immediate development of the Cape 
route with steam vessels, public interest in Calcutta turned toward 
the Red Sea route which had already been partly tested and found 
practicable. With the approval of a majority of the subscribers 
to the first Bengal Steam Fund, a public “ steam meeting ” was 
held at the Calcutta Town Hall on June r4, 1833, to consider 
ways and means of action. It was voted first to send a petition 
to the Court of Directors for a permanent steam establishment 
which would serve Calcutta. Since a favorable reply to this was 
a matter of doubt, the meeting voted further to raise a new steam 
fund which would not be circumscribed by the conditions under 
which the old had been formed, and which instead might be 

“ Pori. Paf., 1831-1832, No. 735. — II, App. 25, p. 736. 

50 J. H. Wilson, On Steam Communication between Bombay and Suez, with an 
Account of the Hugh Lindsay's Four Voyages (Bombay, 1833)5 Pari. Pap. } 1834, 
No. 478, App, 2, p. ioj App. 17, pp. 112-113. 

57 Asiatic Journal , XII, N.S., Pt. II, 97. 



122 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


applied to any kind of project that promised early results. A 
new steam committee was therefore formed and a new general 
subscription begun, but with the express provision that funds so 
raised should never be joined with the Bombay joint-stock fund. 

The new plan at Calcutta started well. Within a few weeks 
subscriptions totalled over 50,000 rupees, and plans were being 
discussed for making the fund effective. This substantial re¬ 
sponse to the new appeal for funds was very heartening. It was 
at once an indication of the importance attached by the Calcutta 
community to improved communications and an index to the 
rapidly growing wealth of the Presidency despite the deplorable 
financial condition of the East India Company.'"’" 

The first scheme evolved by the new Calcutta Steam Com¬ 
mittee was to secure a loan of the Hugh Lindsay and the existing 
coal depots on the route to Suez from the Indian Government, 
all operating expenses for a year to be borne by the new steam 
fund. The Governor-General, Lord William Bentinck, who was 
very anxious that a steam line be established, made the counter 
proposition that the Hugh Lindsay be sent on four voyages to 
Suez at Government expense, the Bombay and Calcutta Steam 
Committees jointly supplying the fuel for the quarterly voyages.'"' 9 
The Bombay Steam Committee expressed considerable dislike of 
this plan, and especially the idea of working in conjunction with 
the Calcutta group. They agreed to accept the arrangement, 
however, on condition that the new Bengal steam fund be placed 
at their disposal, so that in case the plan fell through, due to non¬ 
support by the Court of Directors after the coal depots were in 
place, they could still use the amount of their own joint-stock 
fund for the purchase of a new steamer, as originally intended." 0 
This suggestion was indignantly rejected by the Calcutta Com¬ 
mittee, with the entire approval of the Governor-General. 

Lord William Bentinck publicly expressed keen disappointment 
at the attitude taken by Bombay, and made a new suggestion that a 
steamer be purchased or leased by the Supreme Government of 
India and operated direct from Calcutta to Suez by the Bengal 
Committee.. This plan was based on the recent appearance in the 
Hooghly River of a new steamer, the Forbes , which although 
constructed for river service, was considered of sufficient size and 


8 Asiatic Journal, p. 225 U XIII, N.S., Pt. II, .8, 95, *95- Steam fun* similar 
“ Calcutta were f wmed at Colombo (Ceylon), Agra, Delhi, and Madras, 
though in some places two funds were started, one for small, non-participating 
subscnptions, and a joint-stock fund for large investments. 1 b 

so XIII > N ; S -> Pt - n > 14I-X43- 

NS ombay Courier, i and 12 Oct., 1833, as given in the Asiatic Journal, XIII, 
lN.o.j rt. iky 168, 194, 257. 7 



TENTATIVE TRIALS OF THE SUEZ ROUTE 123 

power for the trip to Suez. This suggestion was joyfully adopted 
by the Calcutta Steam Committee, the joy being all the greater 
because Bombay had no part in the arrangement. The Forbes 
was consequently chartered from the owners for a maximum of 
three voyages to Suez at the rate of 4000 rupees per month, the 
expense to be borne by the Bengal Government. The Steam 
Committee assumed the cost of the necessary fuel depots, having 
already raised about 1,30,000 rupees for the steam fund. 01 

The announcement that Calcutta was to have an independent 
line to Suez caused grave concern in Bombay. The Bombay 
Steam Committee at once adopted a most conciliatory tone, offer¬ 
ing to cooperate “ as far as possible ” in carrying out the original 
proposal. They refused to give up their joint-stock idea, how¬ 
ever, so it was finally agreed that the Hugh Lindsay was to make 
one trip from Bombay at the expense of the Government of India 
early in 1834, after which the Forbes was to be run for three 
voyages from Calcutta, thus working out the elements of a com¬ 
prehensive- scheme of steam navigation to all of the Indian 
Presidencies. 

Throughout the year 1833 preparations went on apace for the 
four projected voyages of the next year. A petition was sent to 
the British Government, asking for steamers to cooperate in the 
Mediterranean. Coaling vessels were sent out to establish depots 
in the Maldives, at Socotra, and on the Arabian coast. The 
Mohammedan King of the Maldives, sensing the loss of his in¬ 
dependence, protested that no good harbors or coaling places 
existed in his islands, and that his subjects were bad people who 
might harm the English. But his objections were answered by 
the Calcutta Steam Committee with a present of a silver watch, 
some silk and muslin cloth, and six pints of the Forbes steamer ! 02 
The native ruler of Socotra proved to be more refractory still. 
Refusing to sell his island at the price fixed by the Bengal Gov¬ 
ernment, it was occupied in force until it was found to be of no 
considerable value as a way station. 03 

The Hugh Lindsay reached Suez in February, 1834, as per 
schedule, carrying a number of passengers, each of whom had 
paid about 1200 rupees (£300) for his passage. 04 The Forbes 

61 India Gazette, 5 Nov., 18335 Calcutta Courier, 23 Nov., 18335 Asiatic Jour- 
nal, XIII, N.S., Pt. II, 194-195, *465 ibid., XIV, N.S., Pt. II, 6 , 1 £6-117. 

02 Asiatic Journal, XVI, N.S., Pt. II, 227. 

63 Bengal Hurkaru, 20 Nov., 1834, quoted in Asiatic Journal, XVI, N.S., Pt. II, 
251. Cf. ibid., XIV, N.S., Pt. II, 95. 

04 An excellent account of the voyage is given in the Asiatic Journal, XIV, N.S., 
Pt. I, 198—202. An overland trip at this time was no simple matter. Besides costing 
heavily in passage money, the passenger had to carry all his accommodations with 



124 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


also left Calcutta on the prearranged date, April 15, each pas¬ 
senger for Suez having paid 100 rupees passage money. Just as 
the vessel reached Madras, however, its boiler was badly damaged, 
and the vessel was obliged to return to Calcutta under canvas for 
repairs. 65 This upset the w'hole Calcutta plan for the time being, 
and more than a lac of rupees had been spent without result. The 
Hugh Lindsay was therefore continued in service as frequently 
as her mechanical condition would permit, while the Forbes was 
being prepared for a second attempt. 

This took place in September, at the end of the southwest 
monsoon. The trip was fairly successful, on the whole, Suez 
being reached after a voyage of 69 days, and mails were sent 
overland to England, though they had to be conveyed to Malta 
in a sailing vessel. The return of the Forbes led to a momentary 
wave of enthusiasm at Calcutta, and the Steam Committee re¬ 
solved to send out the steamer for a third time in 1 835. The 
Bengal Government did not approve of this, however, and after 
a brief day in the limelight, the little Forbes returned to the work 
for which she had been constructed, that of towing sailing vessels 
up and down the Hooghly River. 1 '"'' For the time being, the 
remainder of the Calcutta steam fund was employed in subsidiz¬ 
ing a campaign of propaganda in England and in facilitating the 
transit of mails and passengers through Egypt. 

The Bombay Steam Committee meanwhile had done little. 
The joint-stock subscriptions were not sufficient for the purchase 
of a new and adequate steamer, and, besides, the Hugh Lindsay 
continued to be operated at intervals at Government expense." 
At the same time, the tremendous cost at which the Forbes had 
made a single voyage to Suez and the cost of keeping the Hugh 
Lindsay in repair and her furnaces supplied with fuel more and 
more em phasized the fact that the task of establishing adequate 


h i m ; , T ^ e 1 i st „ of necessities m 1834, as compiled by an experienced traveller, in¬ 
cluded the following, principally for the passage through Egypt: 450 Spanish 
dollars 1 interpreter-servant, several weeks 1 supply of tea, coffee, sugar, salt, pepper, 
mustard, etc., 2 dozen bottles each of sherry, brandy, and water, separately parked, 
2 kegs of water for cooking, 2 dozen canisters of houille, a good supply of candles, 
powder and shot, 1 canteen, 1 camp table, a camp chair, cooking utensils, lantern or 
cabin lamp, rope, nails, hammer, gimlet, twine, needles, basin, flint and steel, pistol, 
umbrella, towels, soap, bedding, camp bed with posts and curtains, bread, butter, 

efrried Ch on rC ° a1 ’ ^f mHch ^ W ‘ th 1 CradIfi 30 that k « >uld 
E^lf 4 See ; H i Bartlett> The mle Boat • ^ Glim fses of the Land of 

hgyft (2d ed., London, 1S50), pp. 30-31. 

2 Asiatic Journal, XV, N.S., Pt. II, 105, 144, j 90-191. 
ibid., XVm, N^Pb li’ 2245 CatCUUa C ° Urier ' 28 March > i 8 35, quoted in 

mpn ! S remain , ed ° £ ‘l 16 Bt \ mbay Steam Fund ’ aftcr various n »™>r disburse- 

ments had been made, was later divided among the subscribers* 



TENTATIVE TRIALS OF THE SUEZ ROUTE 125 

steam lines in the eastern seas was too great for steam committees, 
even with government support. If lines of rapid transit were to 
be developed beyond the Mediterranean, the initiative must ob¬ 
viously come from still higher sources of authority. 

Although a kind of impasse seemed to have been reached by 
the end of 1834, the steam organizations in the Indian Presiden¬ 
cies were not idle during the next few years. They showered 
petitions upon the Court of Directors, the House of Commons, 
and several of the departments of the British Government. Still 
acting independently, they employed “ steam agents ” in London, 
whose business it was to carry on lobbying activities, to publish 
pamphlets and prospectuses, and generally to keep the subject of 
steam navigation to India before the public eye. 

At home, interest in the Suez route had not been altogether 
wanting. The voyages of the Hugh Lindsay brough distin¬ 
guished travellers, despatches, and mails from India in record time 
and caused favorable comment in many circles. The sentiment of 
mercantile .interests was increasingly enlisted. The subject of 
eastern steam lines soon came up for discussion both at the East 
India House and in the House of Commons. The question of 
assuming further expense for the development of the Suez route 
was hotly debated at proprietary meetings of the East India Com¬ 
pany. In all of these discussions it was asserted that any further 
expense incurred for steam communication must inevitably in¬ 
crease the already heavy burdens on the peoples of India. But 
it was also argued that by this same speedy communication, many 
problems of administration would be lightened, and the Indian 
peoples benefited accordingly. 08 

Debates in the House of Commons in 1834 led to the decision 
to give the Euphrates River project a thorough trial before em¬ 
barking extensively on any official program for the development 
of the Red Sea route. Nevertheless, while voting a substantial 
sum for the steam survey of the Euphrates, the House had before 
them the recommendation of the Select Committee appointed to 
consider the matter, that “ it is expedient that measures should 
be immediately taken for the regular establishment of steam 
communication from India by the Red Sea.” 69 

One of the principal difficulties in the way of an adequate line 
of steamships in the Indian Ocean was the dilapidated financial 
condition of the East India Company. This corporation was 
barely solvent in 1835, and had practically become a ward of the 

68 Asiatic Journal, XV, N.S., Pt. II, 119. 
a ® Ibid,., XVII, N.S., Pt. II, 276. 



126 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


British Government. Partly for this reason, the time was already 
passing when the Company’s monopoly was looked upon as pro¬ 
hibiting any interference in its domains beyond the Mediter¬ 
ranean. Sir John Hobhouse, President of the Board of Control, 
in speaking before the House of Commons on August 9, 1835, 
made the significant remark, that a The object [steam navigation 
to India] was one of national importance. . . As to the route by 
the Euphrates, what might be the issue, he could not say. . . 
But, supposing the Expedition to succeed, it would still be the 
duty of the King’s Government to take steps for the navigation of 
the Red Sea.” 70 

With this assumption of moral responsibility by the British 
Government, preliminary arrangements went forward for a 
tentative establishment of the Red Sea route. The extension of 
the French steam packet service, which included several fast and 
comfortable vessels, from Marseilles to Alexandria in 1835 in¬ 
sured a rapid and dependable service in the Mediterranean inde¬ 
pendently of the British Admiralty packets. 71 Pressure applied 
by the Board of Control caused the Directors of the East India 


Company to order the construction of two large steam vessels for 
regular service between Bombay and Suez, to supplement the 
Hugh Lindsay.™ But final arrangements for the development of 
this route had to await the outcome of a steam expedition designed 
to test the practicability of steam navigation on the rivers of 
Mesopotamia. After 1835, however, regardless of the findings 
of the Euphrates Expedition, there was little doubt that vessels 
flying the British flag would soon come regularly and at constantly 
lessening intervals to either side of the Isthmus of Suez. Already 
considerable progress had been made. On speed tests, messages 
had been carried between London and Bombay in as short a time 
as 52 days, and mails could be transported overland between 
Bombay and Calcutta by post or “ dawk ” in about ten days more. 73 

For these early accomplishments the steam associations in the 
Indian Presidencies may claim a large measure of credit despite 
their quarrels. In the words of a contemporary French traveller, 
Ci It was neither to aid the ambitious schemes of Lord Palmerston, 
nor to furnish a theme for the harangues of Sir John Hobhouse, 

70 Asiatic Journal , XVIII, N.S., Pt II, 38. 

71 Ibid., XVI, N.S., Pt. II, 148. French packets were generally reputed to be 
faster than British steamers at this time, and in 1835 they sailed for the Levant via 
Nice, Genoa, Livorna, Civita Vecchia, Naples, Malta, and Navarino every ten or 
twelve days. 


T * London Times, 18 Aug., 2 Oct., 1835; Asiatic Journal, XVIII, N.S., Pt. II, 
385 Barker, of. ert II, 132. ’ 

r F a 1 ' P L a f'’ L 8 , 3 A +78, Min. of Ev., p. 7< 5 5 Asiatic Journal, XIV, N.S., Pt. 

I, 198 ff.i tbii., XVII, N.S., Pt. II, 22, 276. 



TENTATIVE TRIALS OF THE SUEZ ROUTE 127 

that the inhabitants of India had, with admirable zeal and gen¬ 
erosity, established regular communication via Suez. . . Their 
motives were most praiseworthy: one element desired rapid com¬ 
mercial operations; others wanted a means of avoiding long trips 5 
all wanted quick news. . . And success was desirable to aliens as 
well as to the English.” ” 

74 V. Fontanicr, Voyage dans PInJe, II, 177-178. 



CHAPTER VI 


THE SHAPING OF A BRITISH F.ASTF.RN POLICY 

T HE NAPOLEONIC wars became national wars after 
1808, encircled France, and at last overwhelmed the 
dictator of Europe. In 1814 the allied Powers re¬ 
quired the restored Bourbon monarchy in the first Treaty of Paris 
to give up all thought of continuing Napoleon’s oriental policy. 1 
At Vienna in 1815 the same Powers, in rearranging the map^of 
Europe, were still apparently in accord on eastern questions. 1 he 
Quadruple Alliance of September, 1815, brought into" close asso¬ 
ciation those states which were potential competitors in the Near 
and Middle East. Thus, with the principal European aggressor 
crushed, Great Britain might well consider India reasonably 
secure. 2 

Unfortunately, this was a false sense of security. First, the 
Concert of Europe, which was to have proved an antidote for 
war, soon became hopelessly disrupted over intervention in Spain 
and in the Spanish colonies. Shortly afterward, the outbreak of 
hostilities in the Greek Peninsula, where a war of liberation from 
Turkish despotism was undertaken, raised a number of new and 
grave issues in which all the great Powers became involved. Be¬ 
fore the problems arising here had been solved, a Russian attack 
on Turkey, the conquest of Algeria by an unchastened France, and 
the peculiar relation of a new French dynasty to the Belgian 
Revolution appeared for a time to foreshadow a new European 
conflict. 3 Within a dozen years the Concert of Europe was little 
more than a name. 

Of these developments, the most disturbing from the point of 
view of routes of access to the East, arose from the Greek war of 
independence. The Greeks, who had been undergoing a re- 

1 British and Foreign State Papers, I, 151-170. See Fontanier, Voyage dans 
Vlnde , II, 419-4.20. 

2 Edouard Driault, La Question d > Orient > pp» iqo—iox, 

3 Cf. Charles White, Belgium and the Twenty-}our Articles (London, 1834)} 
Sir Robert Peel from His Private Papers (2 vols., London, 1899), II, 159-160; 
Duke of Wellington, Despatches , etc., (15 vols., London, 1859), III, 445. 

128 



SHAPING A BRITISH EASTERN POLICY 129 

markable commercial revival since the decline of English and 
French trade in the Levant,' 1 had the popular sympathy of most 
of the peoples of western Europe in their struggles to free them¬ 
selves from the worse features of Turkish rule. European gov¬ 
ernments, however, were for the most part stoutly opposed to 
the Greek cause, and for several years the Greek question was 
discussed in the principal chancelleries of Europe without much 
result other than a general agreement on inaction. Tsar Alexan¬ 
der I, who had kept his huge army on a war footing since the 
Congress of Vienna, made overtures to France for an alliance in 
which the two Powers would settle the Eastern Question in their 
own interests. The French, aware of the sentiments of neigh¬ 
boring states, refused to rise to the bait. Both Austria and Eng¬ 
land were deeply concerned in preventing further Russian prog¬ 
ress toward the Golden Horn, 5 Austria because of concern in the 
Balkan Peninsula, Great Britain because of budding interest in 
the routes to the East. 11 

Until the Eastern Question assumed serious proportions, Great 
Britain had done little more toward becoming entrenched in the 
Near and Middle East since the beginning of the century than to 
continue raffrochements with native states in perfunctory fashion. 
For half a generation previously there had seemed to be no reason 
for an active eastern program. The Napoleonic wars had left in 
British hands important strategic positions, particularly Malta 
and the Ionian Isles, which, with Gibraltar, appeared to secure a 
passage through the Mediterranean. General European exhaus¬ 
tion following the long wars and lack of motive for the devel¬ 
opment of new routes to the East made for a policy of laisser 
faire in eastern matters. Besides,,- the Cape route with the 
new way station at Table Bay sufficed for English transportation 
needs. 

The Greek Revolution seriously disturbed the calm of the 
Mediterranean and gave rise to a long period of heated rivalry 
both within the Mediterranean area and beyond. The principals 
in the contest which ushered in the insoluble Eastern Question 
were, besides Britain, France and Russia, whose conflicting inter¬ 
ests threatened on many occasions to bring an end to the Turkish 
Empire but finally resulted in preserving it. The fundamental 
interests of these three Powers were not essentially different from 
those of the last quarter of the eighteenth century. The Russians 

4 Driault, of. cit., p. 104. 

5 Russian spies were believed to be working- in considerable numbers in India at 
this time preparatory to another kind of offensive. — A static Journal, XV, O.S., 
io 5 > 403-404- 

6 Driault, of. cit. y pp. 106—107. 



1 3 o BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

desired an outlet on the Mediterranean and they coveted the riches 
of India. The French hoped to dominate the Mediterranean and 
to secure their own means of access to the East by controlling 
Egypt and maintaining their traditional interests in Syria. For 
the British it was necessary to safeguard all the lines leading to 
India and to make them, if possible, into British routes. 

The revival of this eighteenth century struggle grew imme¬ 
diately out of the ravaging of the choicest portions of Greece by 
the Turks after 1821. Within a few years the populations of 
these once prosperous regions were decimated and much of the 
country reduced to a wilderness. Treason and disunity among 
the Greek revolutionaries contributed to the confusion, which at 
one time promised to end with the reestablishment of the Turkish 
yoke on a more intolerable basis than ever. For the more prompt 
recovery of the revolted area, the Sultan in 1824. requested the 
Pasha of Egypt, Mehemet All, to assist him, in consideration of 
a reward consisting of two Turkish pashaliks. 7 The ambitious 
Pasha agreed to the terms offered, and sent to Greek waters almost 
his whole naval force as transports for an Egyptian army. The 
arrival off the Morea of this powerful armament created a con¬ 
siderable stir among the nations of Europe where the Greek cause 
was growing in popularity, and public sentiment presently moved 
governments to action. 

The temper of the English nation by 1826 brought the Foreign 
Minister, George Canning, to sympathize with the Greek cause 
and to favor intervention, in spite of the warnings of imperialists 
and the doubts of his colleagues. Simultaneously, in France a 
wave of popular sympathy prompted the Bourbon monarchy, 
which already favored action on other grounds, to intervene, while 
Russia had already determined to make capital of the situation, 
disregarding the cold disapproval of Austria. “ The course to 
which personal inclination would never have led the Tsar,” says 
the leading historian of these events, “ was being gradually forced 
on him by the logic of political necessity5 for, apart from the 
military reasons . . . the growing influence of England in the 
Levant was beginning to fill him with anxiety. Russia could not 
afford to see her own prestige completely overshadowed by that 
of a power which was already recognized as her great rival in the 
East.” 8 

On April 4? 1826, a Protocol was drawn up at St. Petersburg, 
with English approval, providing that the Turkish Government 

7 Driaultj of. cit. } p. 114. 

8 W. Alison Phillips, The War of Greek Indefendence, 1821-1833 (New York 
l8 97 j> PP- 244-245* 



SHAPING A BRITISH EASTERN POLICY 131 

should be made partially to withdraw from Greece. 0 The Porte 
flatly refused to accede to this. After some delay, the Protocol, 
on July 6, 1827, was made into the Treaty of London, by which 
the contracting parties, Great Britain, France and Russia, bound 
themselves to secure the autonomy of Greece. 10 The Sultan 
replied by drafting additional armed forces from Egypt, for 
which he agreed to pay with additional grants of power to Me- 
hemet Ali. In view of this and in the fear that Russia, acting 
alone, might advance too far, Great Britain and France despatched 
a joint fleet to establish a blockade of the Morea, where the 
recently arrived Egyptian fleet was preparing to cooperate with 
Turkish forces. On August 8 Canning died, but the change in 
British policy which this event foretold by bringing into power 
Lord Goderich and presently the Duke of Wellington, came too 
late to prevent the English nation being seriously compromised in 
its eastern relations. 

Sir Stratford Canning, British Ambassador at the Porte, mean¬ 
while instructed Lord Codrington, in command of the allied naval 
forces, regarding the attitude he was to take toward Turkish and 
Egyptian naval units. “You are,” he said, “to interpose your 
forces between them [the French and Russians on the one side, 
and the Ottoman forces on the other], and to keep peace with 
your speaking trumpet, if possible; but, in case of necessity, with 
that which is used for the maintenance of a blockade against 
friends as well as foes; I mean force.” 11 Admiral Codrington 
either did not wish to keep the peace, or was unable to do so. On 
October 20, when the two groups of fleets were anchored opposite 
each other in Navarino Bay, a few obscure shots embroiled them 
all. Within a few hours the Egyptian and Turkish naval forces 
had been entirely destroyed. 12 

The reports of this one-sided action were received at the various 
European capitals with widely differing manifestations of senti¬ 
ment. The news was received at St. Petersburg with open re¬ 
joicing. The Tsar’s Court believed that at last, having effected 
an open rupture between the English and Turkish Governments, 
the greatest obstacle to their own progress toward Constantinople 
and the Mediterranean had been removed. The Austrian Court 
confessed to a feeling of chagrin and deep foreboding. At Paris 

9 Sir Edward Hertslet, Map of Europe by Treaty (4 vols., London, 1875-1891), 
I, 741—743. 

10 Ibhi.y I, 769-774* Driault, op. cit., pp. 120 £.5 Feodor Martens, Recueil des 
Trentes et Conventions conclu par la Russie avec les Puissances Ittrangeres (15 tom., 
St. Petersburg, 1874-1909), VII, Pt. I, 283-291. The Treaty of Akkerman, mean¬ 
while forced upon the Turks by Russia, practically made the Black Sea a Russian lake. 

11 Quoted in William James, The Naval History of Great Britaln } VI, 360. 

12 Ibid.y pp. 361—372. 



132 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

both government and populace learned with glee of the destruc¬ 
tion of the Mohammedan fleets. The one saw the decline of 
British influence in the Levant, which had so often obstructed 
French enterprise; the other rejoiced at the blow given Turkish 
despotism. At London, however, aside from the glad outbursts 
of sentimentalists, the victory of Navarino produced a feeling 
quite contrary to what might have been expected. A sense of 
disaster pervaded official circles. Editors of some of the more 
conservative journals referred to the naval action as a British 
rather than a Turkish defeat, and subsequent developments lent 
color to the assertion. An interesting commentary on the para¬ 
doxical diplomacy of Great Britain at this juncture is shown by 
the official assertion that although a British fleet had taken part 
in an unprovoked act of war against a friendly Turkish force, 
British relations with the Porte were not necessarily altered 
thereby. The British Ambassador, although compelled to leave 
Constantinople, was not officially recalled, and the British Gov¬ 
ernment continued to maintain that relations with Turkey were 
on the usual friendly basis. 13 

The important bearing of the Navarino incident on British 
imperial interests was not readily understood by the English 
public, which was saturated with blood-curdling stories of Mo¬ 
hammedan atrocities against a defenceless Christian population 
in Greece. To counteract this feeling and to bring about a gov¬ 
ernmental policy in accord with national interests, to save, if 
possible, the carriage and harness after the horse had been stolen, 
imperialistic publicists departed from the traditional caution of 
English writers and stated their arguments with utmost candor. 
A writer in Blackwood’s Magazine put the matter succinctly in 
stating — 

Much has been said, and a good deal written, on the pos¬ 
sibility of our being called upon to defend our Indian pos¬ 
sessions against the invasion of a European power; and there 
is still much question of the practicability of such an ex¬ 
pedition. . . 

It is almost unnecessary to say, that Russia is the only 
European nation at all likely to undertake this enterprise, 
or, indeed, whose situation puts it in her power to attempt it. 
She is the only nation who has a frontier in Asia, or who 
comes in contact with those Asiatic nations, whose remoteness 
leaves them at the mercy of their neighbours. . . She is the 
only nation who has the means of establishing any permanent 

v 13 Phillips, of. tit., pp. 270-272. 



SHAPING A BRITISH EASTERN POLICY 133 


influence or control over the countries lying towards India, 
or extending her frontiers in that direction. Other European 
governments may form alliances with princes of central Asia, 
and may even enj oy a certain share of consideration and in¬ 
fluence at their courts, 1 ' 1 but Russia can make her strength be 
felt and dreaded, and she can threaten with effect, and dictate 
with the power of enforcing obedience. . , 

We know that Russia has been led to speculate on the 
possibility of attempting the invasion of India from her 
present position — an attempt to carry it by a coup de main 
... We know that it has been pronounced practicable by 
more than one of her military leaders and we have already 
noticed the opinion of Napoleon in its favor. . . ir> 

The bearing of the Battle of Navarino on the probable ex¬ 
pansion of Russia was delineated by a writer in CobbetRs Register , 
who maintained that — 

By this battle we assisted Russia and France to cripple the 
Turkish power. This was . . . directly contrary to our 
interest; but we did it because we could not go to war. 
Russia and France were resolved to sever Greece from the 
rest of Turkey. . . We knew that they had a design to 
break up the Turkish power, in order to open a way to 
India. . . 10 

The intervention of the Allies at Navarino accomplished its 
immediate end. It enabled the Greeks to carry on their desperate, 
albeit disunited and feeble, struggles for independence. But in 
the course of the century, far greater consequences to Turkey and 
the Great Powers resulted. Russia at once proceeded to make 
the most of the situation created by the London Treaty and the in¬ 
tervention in Greece. The next year she found it possible, by 
making a favorable treaty with Persia, to go to war against Turkey 
on her own account. In this move, which was supported by 
France, Britain could do little more than bite her nails in futile 
regret and helpless rage. 

Turkey proved to be an easy victim at this juncture. Within 
a year her resistance had been overcome, her armies driven in, 
and her capital placed at the mercy of the northern invader. Only 
the fear of provoking a general European war kept the Russians 

14 The reference here to French activities in Persia is unmistakable. 

15 Blackwood's Magazine, Sept., 1827, pp. 267-2695 David Ross, Opinions of 
the European Press on the Eastern Question (London, 1836), pp. 165-168. 

16 CobbetPs Register , Oct., 1829, quoted in Ross, op. cit. } pp. 197-198. 



134 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


from occupying Constantinople. The Tsar’s Government was 
able to bide its time, however, and arrange such a peace with 
Turkey as might serve Russian purposes on some later occasion. 
By the Treaty of Adrianople of September 14, 1829, the Sultan 
consented to the demands previously made by the Allies that the 
Greeks be freed. This, however, was merely a sop thrown by 
Russia to the western Powers. Her real purposes were summed 
up in clauses providing for the permanent weakening of the 
Ottoman Empire by grants of autonomy to Serbia, Moldavia, 
and Wallachia, and still more by the transfer to Russia of all 
claims to Georgia and other Caucasian territories. M oreover, 
Russia was to be recognized as protector of all Greek Catholic 
churches within the Empire and was given the right of protection 
over Russian traders. The situation was full of evil promise. 17 
So satisfactory had been the terms of peace that Russia found it 
possible to acquiesce in the position taken by the western Powers 
that such territorial changes in Europe were a matter of inter¬ 
national concern. Consequently, at a conference in London late 
in the same year Russia agreed to a slight modification of the 
terms of the Treaty of Adrianople. 1 * But in all essentials the 
document stood to constitute a notable Russian diplomatic victory. 

These, events had a tendency to revive the whole question of 
the likelihood of the invasion of India by a European Power, a 
question which had been dormant since the close of the Napoleonic 
wars. 18 Many English imperialists hastened to indulge in a post¬ 
mortem examination of the faults of British foreign policy and 
the evils likely to result from it. The prevailing theme is well 
illustrated, by the comment of a well-known writer in the Quar¬ 
terly Review: '*■' 


To preserve the independence of Turkey has long been 
the primary object of the foreign policy of France and 
England, especially of the latter — for we have an Asiatic 
as well as a European interest at stake. . 

Is it nothing to see projects maturing for direct communi¬ 
cation with India through the Turkish territory, while the 
Danube is rendered navigable — canals are about to connect 
that stream with the other rivers of Austria, and with 
those of Russia, Prussia, and Bavaria, so as to establish 


XVT f b \ M % ■ Eu ?t e by Treaty ’ n > 81 3- 8 3iS Brit, ami For. St. Pap., 
fl- 64 7i < Barker, Syria and Egypt under the Last Fine Sultans of Turkey, II, itl 
passim; Chesney, Narrative of the Euphrates Expedition, p 14, h 9 ’ 

18 Brit, and For. St. Pap., XVI, 6 47 8. 

269 ~ 289 5 QuarUrly Review> XLm ’ 



SHAPING A BRITISH EASTERN POLICY 135 

a direct communication between the manufacturing districts 

of Germany and the marts of Turkey, Persia, Egypt, Arabia, 

and even India itself? 20 

And an able contemporary added that because of the clever and 
unscrupulous manner in which Russia set about advancing her 
interests, the existence of Turkey was undoubtedly necessary to 
the existence of Persia and the security of India. 21 

During these eventful years, British foreign policy, if not 
essentially changing, was at least becoming definitely defined on 
some points. In 1827 there was much vacillation and doubt as 
to what should be British attitude toward the Turkish Govern¬ 
ment. That Power had long been courted because it could give 
commercial privileges or withhold them at pleasure. Likewise 
it could grant or refuse rights of passage to India by any of the 
nearer routes and its fiat was unchallenged. But the battle of 
Navarino — the most enlightening of a series of significant events 
— suddenly lifted the veil and disclosed to Great Britain and to 
the world at large not a powerful Empire, but a weak, disin¬ 
tegrating state, honeycombed with corruption, stricken with pov¬ 
erty, disorganized and disunited, and incapable of any long or 
consistent course of action. The Ottoman Empire had become 
little more than a loose confederation, although its traditions still 
gave its government a prestige quite out of proportion to its real 
strength. 

In the face of this revelation, British attitude had to be revised. 
The first impulse was to stand aside and to permit the forces of 
disruption to complete their work. Religious and moral forces 
in England, active at the time, strongly contributed to this ten¬ 
dency. After the Russo-Turkish War, however, with both Russia 
and France strong in the eastern Mediterranean, the alternative 
policy was adopted at London, and the determination to protect 
and preserve the Turkish state and particularly its capital, Con¬ 
stantinople, became a corner stone of British foreign policy for 
the next half century. 22 

The most elementary student of modern history knows well 
that the continued existence of the Turkish Empire up to the end 

20 Quarterly j Review, LIII, 229. For an able summary of the entire situation, 
see the pamphlet by David Urquhart, published anonymously, entitled, England, 
France, Russia and Turkey. Urquhart was one of the most authoritative and in¬ 
fluential writers of the period. 

21 British and Foreign Review, No. 1, quoted in Ross, of. ctt., pp. 347—3S3. 

22 See Lieut.-CoL Sir George de Lacy Evans, On the Designs of Russia (London, 
1828), pp. 231-244. 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


136 

of the Great War was little due to its inherent strength, but was 
due primarily to the jealousies of the Great Powers, none of 
whom was willing that another should occupy Constantinople, 
from which place the Near East could be dominated. It is 
difficult to divorce the Asiatic aspects of the Eastern Question 
from the purely European ones. That the former were more 
potent in the early part of the nineteenth century is indicated by 
the fact that the British took the lead in promoting the belief that 
the peace of Europe depended on the continued existence of the 
relatively innocuous Turkish Empire as a European power. 

The contemporary situation in Persia was not calculated to 
allay any of the fears inspired by events in Europe. The Treaty 
of Gulistan of 1813 23 produced only a lull in Russian penetra¬ 
tion southward toward Mesopotamia and the frontiers of India. 
Following a disagreement over boundaries, the war broke out 
again in 1826, and was fought with vigor for two years. The 
Persians, as on previous occasions, found it impossible to cope 
successfully with the armies from the north, and by the Treaty 
of Turkmanshah, in 1828, they lost important territories, includ¬ 
ing the provinces of Erivan and Nakhchivan. Persia was forced, 
besides, to grant commercial concessions which went far toward 
placing her in the relation of vassal to Russia. 21 Although the 
British viewed these developments with deep concern, they were 
compelled to take the view that the Persians had waged an agres- 
sive war, and that the definitive treaty of 1814 must be modified 
accordingly to exclude the clause binding Great Britain to assist 
Persia in any war with Russia. 20 

We may be assured [said a writer in the Oriental Herald \, 
that every circumstance conspires to produce the collision of 
Great Britain and Russia on the confines of India, and that 
at no very distant time. Russia, at least, will leave nothing 
unattempted to accelerate the meeting. . . 2,i To attempt to 
avert the .storm by intriguing in the Court of Persia, is merely 
to prescribe for symptoms, instead of grappling with the 
disease itself. 27 


So, with Russia strongly entrenched in northern Persia, and 
with Russian agents active in Khiva and Bokhara, the situation 


23 Sir Percy Sykes, History of Persia, II, 311. 

It ^f rtens et Cussy, Recueil des Traites et Conventions, IV, 144.- 

**> Q-trlrae* TT rv t J T*T 


T50, 


25 Sykes, of. cit., II, 318-321. 

n0t bee ” far fetchcJ is indicated by an article in the 
Gazette de Moscow for 27 Dec., 1832; quoted in Ross, of. cit., p. 353 n . 

27 Oriental Herald, XIX, 269-282. ' F 353 



SHAPING A BRITISH EASTERN POLICY 137 

in western Asia was threatening enough to call definite attention 
to such routes as might be developed to help offset these advances. 
Only secret French agents in India 28 and French plans for aggres¬ 
sion in Egypt and in Algeria were needed to create as unsatisfac¬ 
tory a picture as the worst British pessimist could desire. 29 

While events of the greatest significance to British interests 
were transpiring in the eastern Mediterranean area, another situa¬ 
tion arose in the loosely-knit Turkish Empire which tended to 
focus the attention and concern of Great Britain on the future of 
the Mediterranean itself. Although Russia had taken the place 
of France in the center of the Near Eastern stage, the latter was 
not occupying the role of idle spectator. With Britain and Tur¬ 
key at odds and the Treaty of London still nominally effective, 
the French Government saw a prospect of regaining in the Medi¬ 
terranean some of the prestige which had been lost on previous 
occasions. The Barbary states supplied the most desirable sphere 
of operations at the time. 

France had had commercial relations with northern Africa for 
decades. Though there had been malheurs at times, relations 
were generally friendly. For this trade and the necessary pro¬ 
tection from pirate raids, France had paid an annual tribute to 
the Moslem chiefs, as did all other nations who wished to be un¬ 
molested in their commercial relations. 30 Early in the nineteenth 
century, however, Algerian pirates became unusually active, due 
to the disorganization of European naval forces during the 
Napoleonic wars and the suspension of the usual indemnities. 
Soon after the Congress of Vienna, various Christian Powers sent 
punitive expeditions against the Barbary pirates, time after time 
exacting promises of good behavior which were as often violated. 31 
During the twenties, both Great Britain and France blockaded 
Algerian ports for considerable periods, but without much effect. 
In view of the accumulation of injuries, the Government of 
Charles X began contemplating the occupation of Algiers soon 
after his accession in 1825. 32 Only a favorable opportunity was 
wanting, and it was soon supplied. 

28 Correspondance de Victor Jacquemont avec sa Famtlle (2 vols., Paris, 1833). 
This was translated and published in London the year following in order to disclose 
French plans for recovering their former power in India. See the Quarterly 
Review, LIII, 19-56, 

20 Evans, op, tit., pp. 231-232. 

30 Alfred Zimmerman, Kolonialfolitik (Leipzig, 1905), p. 318. 

31 Brit, and For. St. Pap., XI, 185 ; XII, 994. Cf. London Gazette, 13 April, 
1824. 

32 H, Lorin, UAfrique du Nord; Tunisie — Algeria — Maroc (Paris, 1908), 
p. 24. 



138 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

In 1827 a long series of Algerian insults to the French flag 
culminated in a diplomatic outrage. On a state occasion, the 
fiery Dey of Algiers, engaged in heated argument, struck the 
French consul in the face with his glove. Upon the receipt of 
the report of this challenge in Paris, diplomatic relations were 
immediately broken off, and notice was issued of a renewed 
blockade of the port of Algiers. 3 " The next three years were 
spent in deciding whether Algiers might safely and profitably be 
occupied by France. Many factors contributed to the belief that 
aggressive action of the sort contemplated was not only desirable, 
but even necessary. In addition to the more general motives 
already described, the Bourbon monarchy was faced with serious 
domestic problems. Opposition to the reactionary regime was 
becoming constantly more widely spread and threatening, and 
the only policy which the ministers of Charles X could devise to 
popularize the monarchy was one of colonial expansion, which 
might accomplish the victory of nationalism over liberalism. Al¬ 
ready the beginnings of a new colonial empire had been made in 
Senegal. 31 In 18 29 it was resolved to take a much more preten¬ 
tious step in Africa. 

The French blockade did not prove effective, as had been an¬ 
ticipated, and early in 1830 a fleet was prepared to reduce the 
Algerian strongholds. These extensive naval preparations gave 
great, umbrage to the British, already supersensitive to anything 
pertaining to the safety of a Mediterranean waterway. Fairly 
in March Lord Aberdeen, the Foreign Secretary, wrote the Eng¬ 
lish Ambassador at Paris that — 


The formidable force about to be embarked, and the dec¬ 
laration in the speech, of His Most Christian Majesty 
[Charles X] appear to indicate an intention of effecting the 
entire destruction of the Algerian regency, rather than the 
infliction of chastisement. This probable change in the con- 
dition of a Territory so important from its geographical 
position , cannot be regarded by His Majesty’s Government 
without much interest, and it renders some explanation of the 
intentions of the. French Government still more desir¬ 
able. . . The intimate union and concert existing between 
the two countries give us reason to expect that we shall re- 
ceive the full confidence of the French Government in a 
matter touching the interests of both, and which, in its result. 


ll Zimmerman,. of. at., p. 319; Brit, and For. St. Pap., XIX, 943. 

• orl ”’ P- 2 3 - The disagreement over Senegal was terminated only 

m 1904, when other outstanding difficulties were settled. y 



SHAPING A BRITISH EASTERN POLICY 139 

may be productive of the most important effects upon the 

commerce and political relations of the Mediterranean 

States. 35 

To this Polignac, the chief minister of the Bourbon monarchy, 
replied that France was obliged to take action to secure reparation 
for numerous injuries, but that French motives were of the most 
disinterested kind. The proposed expedition was pictured as a 
kind of international missionary enterprise, the burden of which 
France was generously undertaking to bear alone. Furthermore, 
it was emphasized that, if by any unforeseen developments the 
existing order in Algiers should be overthrown, the other Chris¬ 
tian Powers would be asked to cooperate in determining the new 
order. 36 

This statement somewhat relieved the tension, but the protests 
of disinterestedness did not set British qualms entirely at rest. 
Aberdeen asked that a formal statement be given in writing that 
the French Government had no other motives in proceeding to 
Algeria than those of chastisement and restoration of order, and 
added, a I will not conceal . . . that the entire silence respecting 
the rights and interests of the Porte have been observed with 
some surprise.” 3 ‘ To this Polignac replied evasively and at 
length, stating that the Porte would be consulted in due time, and 
that meanwhile the French had no ulterior motives. He also 
deplored the mistrust shown by England, but the specific guaran¬ 
tees asked for by the British Foreign Office were not given. 88 

Two months of temporising passed, with relations becoming 
cool. By this time, the diplomatic basis on which the expedition 
was to proceed had been determined. Egypt had refused an invi¬ 
tation to cooperate in reducing the Algerian strongholds, the Pasha 
believing that although the French were his friends, they might 
one day find it convenient to incorporate Egypt if they once be¬ 
came established in North Africa. 30 The Russian Government, 
also, while making no secret of its approval of French action, took 
no steps toward participation. 40 In view of this diplomatic situa- 

sc Brit, and For. St. Paf, y XIX, 942, Aberdeen, 5 March, 1S30. 

30 Ibid., p. 943. 

37 Ibid.) p. 945, Lord Aberdeen, 23 March, 1830, 

38 Ibid.) p. 947, Lord Stuart de Rothesay, 26 March, 

s& Barker, of. cit. y II, 1175 Brit, and For. St. Pap. y XIX, 953, 956, See W. F. 
Lord, England and France in the Mediterranean, 1660—1830 (London, 1901), pp. 
88-89, an< ^ Louis Blanc, The History of Ten Years y 1830—1840 (2 vols., London, 
1844—1845), I, 75-76, in which it is stated that Mehemet Ali agreed to reduce 
Algiers himself for a consideration but was restrained by the Porte. The objections 
of the British Cabinet figured in the failure of Egypt to join the undertaking. 

40 Blanc, of. cit. y I, 75,76. 



x 4 0 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

tion, the French Government was constrained, on the. very eve 
of the departure of the fleet, to issue a categorical denial of any 
imperialistic intentions. Upon receipt of this^the British Govei n- 
xnent feigned a wholly sympathetic attitude. 

Late in the month of May, the expeditionary squadron sailed 
from Toulon for Algiers. There the fortifications were bom¬ 
barded and destroyed with no great difficulty. The disembarka¬ 
tion of troops began on June 14, and by the first week in July the 
city of Algiers was taken — together with the treasure of the 
ruling house, some forty million francs. The Dey thereupon ca¬ 
pitulated completely, and signed a Convention giving up the 
control of all fortified coast cities in return for French protection 
and guarantee of freedom of religion. 1 " By the end of July, 
30,000 French soldiers were encamped along the Algerian sea¬ 
board. 

The British Government hastened to offer congratulations 
upon the successful outcome of the enterprise and to express the 
hope that, now that all of the objectives had been attained, evacu¬ 
ation of the province would take place shortly.' 13 But Polignac, 
who was largely responsible for the entire proceeding, was an 
ardent patriot as well as a diplomat. While reassuring the watch¬ 
ing Powers, he proceeded to strengthen French establishments in 
Africa up to the very hour when the political exigencies of the 
July Revolution drove him and the monarchy he represented 
from power. 44 

The effect of the July Revolution upon the whole question of 
the Mediterranean was considerable. Immediately after the 
accession of Louis Philippe, the Duke of Wellington, then For¬ 
eign Minister, instructed Lord Stuart de Rothesay, British Am¬ 
bassador to France, to inquire of the new king whether it was his 
intention to observe the engagements contracted by preceding 
French governments. The new monarch is quoted as having 
said in reply — 

As a general rule, it is my most sincere and firm resolution 
to maintain inviolable all the treaties which have been con¬ 
cluded the last fifteen years between the powers of Europe 
and France. As to that which concerns the occupation of 
Algiers, I have most particular and powerful motives to 
fulfill the engagements of my family towards Great Britain 

41 Brit, and For. St. Pap., XIX, 947-961. 

42 Ibid., XVII, 1198} Jean Darcy, France et Angleterre: Cent Annies de Rivalite 
Coloniale (Paris, 1904.), p. 157, 'passim. 

43 Brit, and For. St. Pap., XIX, 961. 

44 Edinburgh Review, LI, 565-566. 



SHAPING A BRITISH EASTERN POLICY 141 

. . . You may then, M. the Ambassador, assure your govern¬ 
ment that mine will conform itself punctually to all the 
engagements taken by his Majesty Charles X relative to the 
affairs of Algiers. But I pray you to call the attention of 
the British Cabinet to the actual state of the public spirit in 
France, and impress upon it that the evacuation of Algiers 
would be the signal for the most violent recriminations 
against my government, which might lead to disastrous re¬ 
sults, and that it concerns the peace of Europe not to depopu- 
larize a new born power endeavoring to strengthen itself. 

It is necessary, then, that assured of our intentions, and con¬ 
vinced of our firm will to fulfil the promises of the last 
government, his Britannic Majesty should leave us the choice 
of time and means.' 15 

The French Revolution of 1830 destroyed the hope of the 
Bourbon monarchy of using the Algerian expedition as political 
capital, but it did give the French an opportunity to acquire an 
important territory almost undisturbed. A general fear among 
the Great Powers of a repetition of the days following the revolu¬ 
tion of 1789, and difficulties arising in Belgium and Poland, tem¬ 
porarily relegated Algeria to the background. The new Orleans 
Government took advantage of this to embark upon a program of 
consolidation, pacification, and Gallicization, which laid the basis 
for a new colonial empire. 40 In order to make this African coup 
more tolerable to the British, the astute and tactful Marquis de 
Talleyrand was selected as the new French Ambassador to the 
Court of St. James. Upon his departure for London, Louis 
Philippe informed him, “ The Algerian affair forms the most 
delicate part of your mission.” 47 Attempts to smooth over the 
Algerian affair were furthered by the accession of Lord Palmer¬ 
ston to the British Foreign Office in 1830, but progress toward 
normal relations was slow because of the aggressive tendencies of 
French Ministers, Thiers, in particular, and the rise of new issues 
in the Near East. 

The Algerian episode, although not affecting British welfare 
as much as had been feared, directly contributed to the rise of a 

45 Blackwood’s Mag., XXXVI, 209, quoting M. Sarrons le Jeune, former aide- 
de-camp to the Marquis de la Fayette. Within three years from the time the first 
protest was lodged against the Algerian expedition by the British Government, the 
intention of the French Government to maintain and colonize Algeria had been 
stated in the Chamber of Deputies. 

46 Lorin, op. ctf., pp. 24-25. 

47 Darcy, op. cit., p. 162. 



142 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


new eastern policy in England — one which savored strongly of 
imperialism. France had endangered British interests often 
before. Now at one stroke the French had further despoiled the 
Ottoman Empire and, by holding extensive territory on both 
sides of the Mediterranean, were in a fair way to turn it into a 
“ French lake,” as the Black Sea had already become a Russian 
lake. The idea that in this partition of Turkish territories Britain 
might be compelled to take part out of self-defence could not he 
entirely discarded as unworthy. It was still contrary to English 
policy to annex territories where native governments might con¬ 
tinue under English influence or protection, but where native 
princes proved refractory and crises developed, ordinary policy 
occasionally had to be set aside to secure a suitable pax Britannica. 
In the Mediterranean, British influence in Mohammedan states 
had temporarily vanished at the time of the unfortunate inter¬ 
vention in Greece. If territorial acquisition became necessary to 
offset the large gains of Russia and France, there appeared to be 
the greatest opportunity and advantage in Egypt, whose Pasha 
was generally considered a French ward and who was often at 
odds with his imperial master. A writer in the Oriental Herald 
ventured to put the thought into words by saying — 

The impression now so generally entertained, of the 
French having an eye to the possibility that if this event were 
to take place, a union might be formed between that power 
and Russia, for the purpose of making an attack on India 
from two separate points, has induced us to think that a few 
words on Egypt, as a colony, would not be ill-timed. . . 

And he concludes that — 

It will be well, if Egypt really is to be possessed by any 
European power, that England should be the first to plant 
her standard on the banks of the Nile. . . Of all the ac- 
quisitions that England could make, whether in a military, 
political, commercial, or colonial point of view, Egypt is the 
most important. Not only is she the key to India, and the 
immediate connecting point between that country and Eng¬ 
land, but no territory offers more resources for the aug¬ 
mentation of our wealth. . . So important is the acquisition 
ot Egypt, that when the valour of Nelson, and the blood of 
Abercrombie, had once made it our own, as soon ought we to 
have thought of surrendering the Tower of London, as 
abandoning it. 


Oriental Herald^ 256 — 257 , 



SHAPING A BRITISH EASTERN POLICY 143 

' That the British Government did seriously contemplate the 
occupation of Egypt at various times after 1830 cannot be 
doubted. This was very well appreciated by the Pasha of Egypt 
himself, who, although he opposed the will of Britain to the 
point of open conflict on more than one occasion, was careful 
never to tempt that tolerant Power too far. One of the instances 
which might have afforded opportunity for intervention in Egypt 
occurred soon after 1830 while anxiety in England over the 
Russian conquests of 1828—1829 and the French conquest of 
Algeria was still at a high pitch. The rise of a situation which 
both Russia and France considered opportune and in which the 
Pasha of Egypt played a leading part can best be approached by 
reviewing the means whereby Mehemet Ali secured the governor¬ 
ship of Egypt and a claim to territories beyond the Isthmus of 
Suez in Asia. 

Mehemet Ali, whose influence on the Levant was probably 
greater for nearly half a century than that of any contemporary 
ruler, was born of obscure Albanian parents in 1769. Of his 
early life, the little which is known comes chiefly from his own 
accounts. As a young man he engaged in trade as a tobacco mer¬ 
chant, and thus came into contact with those of the outer world 
who made possible his later career. His education, such as it was, 
appears to have been gained largely from the gratuitous instruc¬ 
tion of a French trader. From this circumstance, Mehemet Ali 
acquired a respect and an attachment for the French nation which 
he displayed on many later occasions. 49 

Following the general peace of 1815, he devoted himself to 
the improvement of the country which he had come to look upon 
as his own. Soon, also, he showed signs of imperialistic ambitions. 
Between 1818 and 1820 he brought various parts of Arabia under 
his influence and protection. In 1822 his aid was asked by the 
Sultan in the Greek affair, and he gave it on condition that he be 
made governor of Crete, Syria, and Damascus. The wiping out 
of the Egyptian fleet at Navarino caused feelings of bitterness, 
particularly against England, but Mehemet Ali was too shrewd 
to display them. Upon receiving the announcement of the action 
at Navarino, he said resignedly, u It was to be! ” and assured the 
representatives of both Britain and France at Cairo that the in¬ 
terests of their respective countries would be well cared for. 50 

49 Felix Mengin, Histoire ie Vkgyfte sous le gomiemement ie Mohammei-Aly 
(2 vols., Paris, 1823), I, 7 £F.; Paul Mouriez, Histotre de Mehemet-Ali, Vice-roi 
d’^gyfte (2 vols., Paris, 1838), I, 62—66; A. E. P. B. Weigull, A History of Events 
in Egypt from 1798—1914. (New York, 1915), pp. 44—61. 

60 Barker, of. cit., II, 57-58. 



144 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


Mehemet Ali appears to have understood far better than most 
oriental potentates the extent to which the accomplishment of his 
aims, and even his very existence, depended upon the sufferance 
of the Powers which dominated the Mediterranean, namely, 
Britain and France. He also appreciated the extent to which the 
whole policy of Great Britain in the East related to the protection 
of India, and while his interests frequently ran at cross purposes 
to those of the English, he was invariably careful to give no 
occasion for intervention in Egypt. At such times as he was at 
odds with Great Britain he was scrupulously careful to protect 
the lives and property of all Europeans in his domain. 

After the partial settlement of the Greek situation, the Pasha, 
suggesting that he had fulfilled his duty, asked that the promised 
Syrian pashaliks be given him for his services during the several 


years previous. The request was ignored by the Porte, inasmuch 
as no further advantage could be expected from Egyptian forces. 
This furnished an opportunity for diplomatic action which the 
French were not slow to seize. From the beginning of his career 
the French Government had stood sponsor for Mehemet Ali, 
and on this as on other occasions his interests and those of the 
French coincided. Encouraged, then, by secret French advice, 
Mehemet Ali began the preparation of forces to be used in oc¬ 
cupying the claimed Syrian territories. His armies were ready in 
the summer of 1831, and the Rubicon was crossed when Ibrahim 
Pasha, son of the Viceroy, captured Gaza, the door to Syria and 
Arabia. Here there was a considerable pause, while the effects of 
the first move were studied and the army strengthened. Finding 
that no great alarm had thus far been raised, Mehemet Ali caused 
the advance to continue. During the summer months of 1833 
Jerusalem, Damascus, Acre, and Aleppo were taken. Here the 
Emit of the Pasha’s territorial claims should have counselled a 
halt. But the ease with which one stride after another had been 
taken, the chaotic state of Turkish defences, and the glee of the 
French, many of whose officers were serving with the Egyptian 
forces, for once led his ambition to outstrip his judgment. In 
August, Egyptian forces crossed from Syria into Asia Minor in 
order, as the Pasha said, “ to rescue his master from the tram¬ 
mels of Russian influence, and to place about him more worthy 
counsellors. A few weeks later a large and well equipped 
Turkish army was defeated and cut to pieces at Konia, and the 
door to Constantinople appeared to stand open. 

At this juncture the whole affair definitely became an inter¬ 
national matter. Following the Treaty of Adrianople, Russia as- 

Sl Quarterly Review, LIII, 250. 



SHAPING A BRITISH EASTERN POLICY 145 

sumed the pose of protector of Turkey, thus taking advantage of 
the disaffection introduced into Anglo-Turkish relations by the 
Greek revolt. While this was gall and wormwood to British im¬ 
perialists, there was nothing to be done about it. When Egyptian 
armies began their triumphant march through Syria in 1833 an( f 
a new Egyptian fleet menaced Constantinople, Russia hypocriti¬ 
cally offered her military and naval forces for Turkish protection. 
Although in dire straits, this was at first scornfully refused by the 
Ottoman Government, which turned to the old ally, England, 
for assistance. Sir Stratford Canning, recently appointed British 
Ambassador to the Porte, frantically urged his Government to 
come to the rescue, but Britain was too seriously affected by the 
Great Reform wave and by events nearer home in Europe to 
respond. In despair, therefore, the Turks turned to Russia in 
the early months of 1833, preferring to risk the Russians in their 
new role of friends than as enemies. The response was instan¬ 
taneous. Russian diplomats, officers, and engineers swarmed into 
Constantinople. A Russian fleet entered the Bosphorus. The 
remaining Turkish forces were reorganized by Russian officers and 
Russian troops embarked for Asia Minor. Still in doubt as to 
whether the greater danger threatened from a friendly enemy 
busily engaged in taking peaceful possession of the entire country, 
or from the forces of a rebellious vassal who protested his loyalty 
and asked permission from the Sultan whenever his forces were 
moved nearer the capital city, the Porte was in deepest despair. 

But the peaceful Russian invasion again brought the semblance 
of unity to the councils of Britain and France. The former now 
realized that — 

The possession of Constantinople [by Russia] would at 
once establish her supremacy in Central Asia, by the moral 
influence it would exercise over the whole Mohammedan 
world. . . Persia, for the same reason, would cease to be an 
independent kingdom. Greece, with its islands, would be 
but a province of Russia. The road to India would be thrown 
open to her, with all Asia at her back. . . Even a demon¬ 
stration against India could augment our national expendi¬ 
ture by many millions annually, and render the government 
of this country difficult beyond all calculation. 02 

And in view of the actual occupation of Constantinople by the 
Russians, the French discovered that they had overplayed their 
hand. They hastily deserted Mehemet Ali, therefore, in an at¬ 
tempt to counteract the Russian peril. The joint proposals of 

02 Ibid., LIII, *56. 



i 4 6 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

Great Britain and France were not listened to at first. Only after 
they had brought much diplomatic pressure to bear was a settle¬ 
ment reached. On April 8, 18 33 ? a Convention was signed, by 
which it was arranged that Mehemet Ali should retain the pasha- 
liks which had been promised him under the suzerainty of the 
Sultan. Three months later, on July 8, another Russo-Turkish 
treaty was signed arranging for compensation to Russia for her 
£C assistance ” during the late difficulties. ”1 he price of this aid 
was, to all intents and purposes, Russian control of the Bospho¬ 
rus. 58 Russian designs on Constantinople were rapidly being con¬ 
summated. The upshot of the affair was to throw Turkey again 
into the arms of Great Britain. Prussian drill masters replaced 
Russian officers in the Turkish army. The Russian peril having 
for the moment been reduced, France returned to her plotting 
with the Viceroy of Egypt and laid the basis for another Syrian 
crisis only five years later. 51 

Such, in brief, were the events combining to focus British at¬ 
tention and concern on the Mohammedan countries of the Medi¬ 
terranean. Thus far, Britain had played largely a defensive role 
in the Near East. This being true, Russia had contrived to 
penetrate far into Turkey and Persia, approaching not only the 
natural lines of communication from Europe to India and the 
East but even the physical frontiers of India itself. France had 
managed to hold diplomatic sway in Egypt and to extend her 
control over the Turkish province of Algeria. The great valley 
of Mesopotamia, though a nominal part of Turkish domain, was 
still open to European enterprise. At this psychological moment, 
when the British hold on India seemed to some degree threatened, 
a new factor entered and presently conspired to aid the British 
recovery of power in the Mediterranean and beyond. No states¬ 
man heralded the advent of this new agent, however, for none 
recognized its value. No newspaper captions or “ leading ar¬ 
ticles ” greeted its debut. Widely regarded at first with scorn 
and incredulity, its real influence and value came to be compre¬ 
hended only by slow degrees. This new force, whose insidious 
effect on European diplomacy was destined to be profound, was 
the steamship. 

Some reference has been made to the fact that before the open¬ 
ing of the nineteenth century attempts had been made to develop 
a British line for communications between the Persian Gulf and 

153 The Treaty of Unkiar Skelessi. — Hertslet, Map of Europe by Treaty, II, 
925-928; Barker, op. tit., II, 197. 

54 Maj. John Hall, England and the Orleans Monarchy (London, 1912), pp. 
227—230. 



SHAPING A BRITISH EASTERN POLICY 147 

the Mediterranean for Indian despatches. 56 But regular service 
by this route was discontinued after 1815, and was partially re¬ 
established only in 1837 near the end of a steam survey of the 
Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. 50 It was the political situation in 
the Mediterranean area which, more than anything else, created 
British interest in the re-opening and the development of this 
route after 1830. This was not so well known as the route through 
Egypt and the Red Sea, but its strategic value was considerably 
greater. The Indian Presidencies, however, were not primarily 
interested in political routes, but rather in those which would be 
most reliable and speedy for the exchange of messages and news 
as well as for the transit of passengers. But their hopes for the 
development of the Red Sea route had to remain unsatisfied until 
the possibilities of the development of a practicable route through 
Mesopotamia had been officially tested, for the Red Sea route 
lay through Egypt where a Pasha with strong French sympathies 
held sway. The line through Syria and Mesopotamia came more 
directly under the control of the Sultan, except where occupied by 
Egyptian armies, and British reliance was placed on the friendship 
of the Sultan. 

Other factors contributed to focus attention on the line through 
Syria and Mesopotamia for a system of regular communication. 
The Red Sea line was handicapped by certain physical limitations 
which did not hamper the other. For about a third of a year the 
southwest monsoon dominated the Arabian Sea and was generally 
considered an 'insuperable obstacle to steam vessels as it was to 
sailing ships. The Red Sea was full of dangers to navigation, 
and both Cairo and Alexandria enjoyed the most unsavory repu¬ 
tations as pest centers. The Persian Gulf, on the other hand, 
might be approached from Bombay at all seasons of the year, 
while the lands through which a line would pass in reaching the 
Mediterranean were believed to be no more detrimental to health 
than was Egypt. But aside from these considerations, still an¬ 
other element entered into the attempt to utilize the Mesopo¬ 
tamian line. 

The ocean steamship did not demonstrate its ultimate value 
during the first third of the nineteenth century. It was expensive, 
inefficient, and hazardous. Steam river navigation, on the other 
hand, was altogether in vogue during this period. Profitable lines 
multiplied on practically all of the larger rivers and canals of 
western Europe. It seemed entirely logical, therefore, to suppose 

05 See above, pp. 59, 67. 

5e Low, History of the Indian Navy, I, 525 j Barker, of. cit. } I, 55, 965 Chesney, 
of. cit pp* 329-331. 



148 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

that steamers would serve a double purpose on the rivers of Meso¬ 
potamia j they would probably reap profits from local river traffic 
and at the same time would provide a convenient, dependable,_and 
speedy method of transmitting packets between the Persian Gulf 
and points on the coast of Syria. From here communications with 
England might be maintained by sea via Malta and Gibraltar, or 
via Constantinople and thence by post roads and river steamship 
lines to the English Channel.” Political advantages and the de¬ 
velopment of river steam navigation will assist in explaining why, 
in view of the fact that the Arabian and Red Seas were navigable 
for a large part of the year, the first serious effort made by the 
British Government to develop a shorter route to India than that 
around the Cape of Good Hope was directed to the natural high¬ 
way through Syria, Mesopotamia, and the Persian Gulf."* 

Feeling against Russia, which had been steadily rising since the 
Treaty of London of July 6, 1827, was especially strong in 1829. 
From having trapped England in connection with the Near 
Eastern situation, Russia was proceeding to crush Turkey, hi very 
Russian move was viewed with alarm. “ They have now steam 
boats on the Volga and the Caspian Sea,” wrote Thomas Love Pea¬ 
cock, Chief Examiner of the India House, in September, 1829. 
“ They will soon have them on the Sea of Aral and the Oxus, and 
in all probability on the Euphrates and the Tigris. . . They will 
do everything in Asia that is worth the doing, and that we leave 
undone.” 59 But some steps were taken to block the Russian ad¬ 
vance, and one of the first agents in this move was Capt. Francis 
Rawdon Chesney, R. A. 

During the Russo-Turkish War, British army officers openly 
sympathized with Turkey, and Chesney, with the knowledge, if 
not the consent, of his Government, hastened out to Constanti¬ 
nople late in 1828 to enlist with the Turkish forces. Upon his 
arrival he found that the war had already ended. For some weeks 
he acted as unofficial observer with the Turkish armies, then re¬ 
turned to Constantinople ready for such tasks of an imperial 
nature as might present themselves. An attractive enterprise 
was not wanting. From Sir Robert Gordon, then British Ambas- 

67 Pari. Pap., 1834, No. 478, Min. of Ev., pp. 13-54. That this was the day 
of river transportation is shown by the suggestion that commerce with India might 
be developed via the Rhine, Danube, Orontes, Euphrates, and Indus. Steamers were 
already plying on the Rhine and Danube, while railways were still rather frowned 
upon. 

58 Because this line was estimated to be shorter than that through Egypt and the 
Red Sea, it later came to be known as the direct route or “ short cut.” 

59 Pari. Pap. 1834, No. 478, App. r, p. 


10 . 



SHAPING A BRITISH EASTERN POLICY 149 

sador at the Porte, Chesney received a commission to proceed to 
Egypt to examine that country with a view to ascertaining what 
facilities for through communication might be discovered. 

Arriving in Alexandria with a Turkish firman in May, 1830, 
Chesney found his task already outlined for him. The India 
House had just sent out to Consul-General John Barker a con¬ 
siderable list of queries respecting the relative advantages of the 
Egyptian and Syrian routes for communication between England 
and India. These were turned over to Chesney, who gladly un¬ 
dertook to make a comparative examination of the two natural 
passageways. One of his first steps was to investigate the pos¬ 
sibility of transforming the overland route through Egypt into a 
waterway by the construction of a canal across the Isthmus of 
Suez. In carrying out this part of his commission, he surveyed 
both the Isthmus and the proposed canal lines leading from the 
Nile to the Red Sea. His findings as to levels are interesting, for 
they disproved, to his own satisfaction, at least, the calculations 
of the engineers of Napoleon, who had reported a difference of 
nearly thirty-three feet in the levels of the Mediterranean and 
Red Seas. 60 This made it appear that the Nile at Cairo was 
slightly below the mean level of the Red Sea at Suez. Chesney’s 
report, which showed no appreciable difference in the levels of 
the two seas, apparently was not convincing to the English au¬ 
thorities, for until the time of De Lesseps French estimates were 
generally accepted as correct, and tentative canal projects by 
Englishmen were all based on the plan of joining the Red Sea 
with the Nile in the neighborhood of Cairo. 01 

While he was engaged in surveying the Isthmus of Suez and 
becoming constantly more impressed with the importance of im¬ 
proved communication with India, Chesney seems to have become 
imbued for the first time with the idea of substituting the Eu¬ 
phrates River for the desert line through Syria and Arabia to the 
Persian Gulf which had been used at intervals perviously. Hav¬ 
ing reported to Sir Robert Gordon and having received the ap¬ 
proval of Consul-General Barker on his work in Egypt, Chesney 
received permission to make a preliminary survey of the Euphrates 
River primarily to discover its navigability, about which almost 
nothing was then known. Late in 1830, therefore, he set out 
from Alexandria for Syria to begin the more hazardous part of 
his work. 

60 F. R. Chesney, Narrative of the Euphrates Expedition (London, 186S), pp, 
4-5, io-ii. Chesney speaks of the estimated difference in levels as 36 feetj Mr. 
T. L. Peacock stated that it was 30^ feet. The French engineers actually reported 
a mean difference of 30^ feet. 

61 Ibid., pp. 364-373 j Lane-Poole, Life of General F . R. Chesney, p. 467. 



150 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

At Damascus Chesney conferred with the English Consul- 
General, Mr. J. W. Farren. The latter had already drawn up 
plans looking toward the despatch of Indian mails from the Per¬ 
sian Gulf to Hit, on the Euphrates, and thence to the Mediter¬ 
ranean coast, and he actively assisted Chesney in his efforts to 
discover the most suitable line from the Mediterranean through 
Syria to the Euphrates. After considerable rambling about, 
Chesney definitely set out for the Euphrates on December 11, 
1830, and fifteen days later was rewarded with his first glimpse 
of that u noble river,” which was to dominate all of his sub¬ 
sequent career. 

The instructions with which Chesney was supplied by the India 
House for this portion of his surveys seem to indicate that the 
Euphrates had previously been discussed as possibly offering a 
practicable water route for most of the distance from the Medi¬ 
terranean to the Persian Gulf. Chesney was instructed to report 
on Syrian harbors, on any available roads through the Syrian 
desert to the Euphrates and the time by each route, on the nature 
of the Euphrates trade, and on the character of Arab tribes along 
the river. He was to discover at what point navigation ceased, 
and “ at what point (if any) below Bcles it would be possible to 
procure wood in sufficient quantity for steam-navigation.” ““ This 
gave evidence that the hopes of those responsible for Indian 
affairs centred about the possibility of using steam power as far 
as water courses would permit. 

To determine most of these points, it was necessary to descend 
the Euphrates to its mouth. As Chesney was alone and unarmed, 
this was no ordinary matter. He found the Arabs ill disposed 
toward him, as they habitually were to all strangers. In all of his 
efforts in Syria and Mesopotamia he experienced unusual diffi¬ 
culties because of the attitude of the Egyptian Government to¬ 
ward any projects for lines of transit through Syria. Mehemet 
Ali apparendy had no objections to the employment of lines 
traversing Egypt, for these he could control at will and profit 
from accordingly. But in the case of lines through Mesopotamia, 
where Turkish influence might predominate to the prejudice of 
Egyptian interests, the Pasha was determined to put all possible 
obstacles in the way. On a number of occasions loss of property 
and. threats of violence to European prospectors and surveyors in 
Syria and Mesopotamia were traceable to the door of the Egyptian 
Viceroy. 63 

At Anah on the Euphrates Chesney was able to obtain a small 

62 Chesney, of. cit. } p. 4. 

63 lbid. } pp. 15, 172-173, fassim; Lane-Poole, of. cit. } p. 225, fasslm. 



SHAPING A BRITISH EASTERN POLICY 151 

native boat and two native assistants after considerable difficulty. 
With these he began his descent of the river on January 2, 1831. 
Proceeding slowly down the river in the midst of a hostile popu¬ 
lation, suspicious of his native boatmen, and often without suffi¬ 
cient food, Chesney had the greatest difficulty in mapping the 
course of the river and determining its depth. At Felujah, where 
the Euphrates and Tigris approach each other, he left his boat 
and made a flying visit to Bagdad. Here he was warmly wel¬ 
comed by the British Agent, Major Robert Taylor, who was an 
enthusiastic believer in the Euphrates route. 

Chesney’s survey of the Euphrates almost terminated with this 
brief stop at Bagdad, for here he learned for the first time of 
other pathfinders who, under orders from Bombay, were engaged 
at that moment in the same enterprise of discovering possible lines 
of communication through Mesopotamia. He was informed that 
in 1830 Messrs. Bowater and Elliott had been engaged in exam¬ 
ining the adaptibility of the lower course of the Euphrates to 
steam navigation. Late in that year they had been joined by 
Lieut. James W. Taylor, brother of the Resident at Bagdad, and 
a few of his friends, all newly arrived from India. Shortly after¬ 
ward, as has been mentioned, when the party were in the neigh¬ 
borhood of Mosul, they were attacked by Arabs, and Taylor and 
two of his companions were killed. Bowater, one of those who 
perished, had previously prepared a memoir on the opportunities 
for steam navigation in the Persian Gulf which was afterward 
studied by a Parliamentary Committee in 1832. 64 Elliott, one 
of the survivors of the ill-fated party, before Chesney’s arrival 
was assigned to assist Lieut. Henry Ormsby, who had already 
examined and mapped the harbors of the Syrian coast. In April, 
1831, Ormsby and Elliott set out from Bagdad for a further 
survey of the lower course of the Euphrates, having already made 
some examination of the Tigris. Finding that he had been an¬ 
ticipated to this extent, Chesney prepared to give up his plans and 
to retrace his steps, and only with difficulty could Major Taylor 
persuade him to proceed with his work. For the sake of the 
Euphrates survey this was most fortunate, as Ormsby and Elliott 
were unable to complete their work on account of Arab hostility, 
whereas Chesney succeeded in carrying out a preliminary survey. 65 

Chesney’s visit at Bagdad was cut short by an outbreak of 
plague. Hastily leaving the stricken city, he returned to Felujah 

B ‘ Pari. Paf., 1831-1832, No. 735. — II, 737-74.1; Low, of. cit., I, 524. 

66 Pari. Paf., 1834, No. 478, App. 8, pp. 36-40; App. 16, pp. 52-53. See 
Ormsby’s “ Narrative of a Journey across the Syrian Desert,” in Trans, of th& 
Bombay Geog. Soc., VoL II. A good deal of antiquarian interest was displayed by 
all of these early explorers. 



152 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

and continued his descent of the Euphrates, though under the 
most trying circumstances. Being at last unable to employ assist¬ 
ance, and being reduced for food to the scanty donations of 
occasional friendly Arabs, the completion of the voyage to the 
mouth of the river seemed to be a hopeless venture. However, a 
crude raft was finally obtained on which, after many narrow 
escapes, the descent was completed. Through the interstices of 
this raft, when he thought himself unobserved, Chesney thrust a 
long pole at intervals and thus determined the approximate depth 
of the water. At last, worn and half famished, but with some 
rough charts of the river, he arrived at Basrah toward the end of 
April, 1831. 

In beginning his survey of the Euphrates at a point opposite 
Damascus, Chesney had intended returning and surveying the 
upper course of the river from that point to the limits of naviga¬ 
tion. This plan was out of the question by the time Basrah was 
reached because of Arab troubles and outbreaks of the plague, 
which was particularly virulent in 1831 in some of the regions 
which would have to be traversed. 

Chesney finally found it necessary to return to Constantinople 
through Persia. En route from Mohammerah, on the Persian 
Gulf, to Trebizond, on the Black Sea, he passed through Tabriz, 
where he was given some much needed assistance by the British 
Envoy, Capt. C. D. Campbell, and his assistant, John McNeill. 
This chance meeting is the more interesting since Capt. Campbell 
was later one of Chesney’s successors in charge of river surveys in 
Mesopotamia, while McNeill, already interested in the develop¬ 
ment of new routes to India, was destined to distinguish himself 
in diplomatic manoeuvres in Persia in 1836—1837, and to stand as 
one of Chesney’s stanchest supporters in advocating a Euphrates 
Valley Railway forty years later. From Trebizond, Chesney pro¬ 
ceeded via Aleppo to Constantinople and thence home to England, 
where he arrived at the end of 1832. 

Some of Chesney’s reports had preceded him to England. His 
first impressions of the Euphrates, accompanied by sketch maps, 
had been sent back from Bagdad, and gave a distinctly unfavorable 
idea of the middle section of the river. Later in the same year he 
had written the new Ambassador at Constantinople, Sir Stratford 
Canning (afterward Lord Stratford de Redcliffe) that it was 
doubtful whether a steamer could ascend the Euphrates for any 
considerable distance. The Lemlum marshes along the lower 
course would be difficult to pass, he believed, and the rate of the 
current elsewhere, three or four miles per hour, would be difficult 
for a steam vessel to overcome. But he reported that, after all, 



SHAPING A BRITISH EASTERN POLICY 153 

the most formidable difficulty was the temper of the Arabs, who 
would surely attack a vessel on every possible occasion. 00 His 
opinions on all of these points proved to be well grounded, but 
unfortunately he reversed his opinions in later reports, with the 
result that thousands of pounds sterling were expended over a 
period of several years, and the full development of the Red Sea 
route was postponed, before the first unfavorable reports on the 
Euphrates were found to be correct. 

66 Pari. Pa-p.y 1834, No. 478, App. 16, pp. 60-61, 92-93. 



CHAPTER VII 


ATTEMPTS TO OPEN THE EUPHRATES ROUTE 

C HESNEY’S return from his first surveys in Mesopota¬ 
mia occurred at a peculiarly appropriate moment from 
the point of view of British foreign relations. The 
Eastern Question, instead of subsiding after the settlement of 
1829, was reaching a higher pitch than ever because of the advance 
of Egyptian forces in Syria under the encouragement of the 
French, while Russia was beginning to assume the attitude of 
Turkish protector on the other hand. Although Chesney’s first 
reports on the navigability of the Euphrates and the facilities for 
the development of a definite route through this region had been 
rather unfavorable, his attitude soon underwent a change after he 
reached England. He was lionized because of his unique and 
hazardous experiences and was consulted by the King about po¬ 
litical conditions in the East. Under these influences, his final 
reports to the Board of Control, while including some of the data 
submitted earlier, were quite different in tone. Here was a pos¬ 
sibility, he found, of opposing Russian designs more effectually 
than by enlisting with the Turkish armies. 

This change in attitude on the part of Chesney had far-reaching 
consequences. It immediately started a long controversy over 
the relative merits of the “overland” (Egyptian) and “alter¬ 
native” or “direct” (Mesopotamian) routes, which lasted with 
varying intensity through most of the remainder of the century. 1 
But what was of far greater consequence was the fact that Ches¬ 
ney’s approval of the Euphrates as a highway gave Government 

1 As soon as the Euphrates line began to attract favorable attention, a “ school ” 
of exponents sprang up, each of whom wished to be considered the pioneer of the 
route or the originator of the idea. Those who laid claim to such distinction in¬ 
cluded the English Consul-General, John Barker, Mr. Thomas L. Peacock, of the 
East India Company, and Major Robert Taylor. Even the French agent, Victor 
Fontanier, records in one of his books the statement, a I am the first to recognize 
that facile communications with Asia could be of great advantage to all of Europe.” 
(Voyage dans l’Inde y II, 176.) But Chesney, although not the first advocate, must 
be considered the real apostle of the route to which he devoted his life and much 
of his fortune. 


154 



SURVEYS OF THE EUPHRATES ROUTE 155 

heads the opportunity they desired for advocating the develop¬ 
ment of the line for strategic purposes. The decision to adopt 
this on trial as an official route was encouraged by the rapidity 
with which steam vessels were being improved, especially for 
river navigation. 2 

As has already been mentioned, the Select Committee of the 
House of Commons, which sat in 1832 to consider the affairs of 
the East India Company, took up the matter of communication 
with India as a pressing current problem. Along with papers 
prepared by other explorers, some of Chesney’s maps and final 
reports were carefully studied. 3 Of special interest was his mem¬ 
orandum stating the comparative advantages, as he saw them, of 
the Red Sea and Euphrates lines. Chesney believed that the 
route through Egypt might be less expensive to develop, but that 
such advantages as it possessed would be more than offset by a 
saving in time (of six or seven days), in distance (of about three 
hundred miles), and in expensive fuel for steamers in using the 
Euphrates route. He attributed to this line the additional ad¬ 
vantages of all-year utility, greater comfort than the overland 
route, and large commercial possibilities in the development of 
Arab trade. Even the nomadic Arabs, he believed, would tend 
to become sedentary under the influence of regular and profitable 
commercial opportunities. 4 

The year 1833, which saw such startling developments in con¬ 
nection with the Egyptian advance in Syria, was in England 
devoted to a study of ways and means of utilizing the Euphrates 
route to proper advantage. 0 Various members of Parliament 
became converts to the Euphrates route, and its espousal by the 
Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston, gave assurance of the serious 
purposes of the Government and its willingness to brave any 
attitude shown by France or Russia. When “ owing to its political 

2 Lane-Poole (Ed.), Life of General F. R. Chesney, p. 252, passim. This work 
is replete with errors, great and small} but it gives the critical reader, nevertheless, 
an excellent picture of an ambitious and honorable, if somewhat impracticable, 
soldier and imperialist. 

8 Parliamentary Paper, 1831-1832, No. 735. — II, App. 25, pp. 737-741} ibid., 
1834, No. 478, App. 8, p. 36. See maps in Chesney’s Narrative of the Euphrates 
Expedition. 

4 Pari. Pap., 1834, No. 478, App. 16, pp. 70, 71, 98. Cf. Asiatic Journal, VI, 
N.S., Pt. II, 130-131. Consul-General Farren estimated the time between Bombay 
and London by way of Syria, using steam, at 55 days. Pari. Pap., 1831-1832, No. 
735 * 'II, App. 25, p. 757. 

0 See Reports on the Navigation of the Euphrates, Submitted to Government by 
Capt. Chesney, R. A . (London, 1833). His biographer, Stanley Lane-Poole, says 
{Life of Chesney, p. 256) that Chesney was regarded as the pioneer of both of the 
shorter routes. Only a strong partisan could accept that view. 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


156 

bearings ” a discussion of the route rose in the Cabinet, no agree¬ 
ment was reached. 8 This necessitated making the project, if it 
was to survive, one for the consideration of Parliament. There¬ 
fore, in June, 1834, “ it was settled that Lord Lansdowne should 
bring up the subject of communication with India before the 
Lords, and that Mr. Grant [Charles Grant, later Lord Glenelg, 
President of the India Board] should do the same in the Com¬ 
mons.” 7 The House of Commons was sufficiently impressed 
with the need for a new and shorter route to India to refer the 
entire subject to a Select Committee of the House/ The Com¬ 
mittee, consisting of Charles Grant and thirty-five others, nearly 
all men of note, at once began the task of gathering data on the 
political situation in Persia, the advance of Russia, and the relative 
advantages of both the Red Sea and Euphrates routes. 

The first witness called was Thomas Love Peacock, Examiner 
of the East India House. He pointed out the apparent imprac¬ 
ticability of ever improving the Red Sea route by means of a Suez 
Canal, assuming the surveys made earlier by French engineers to 
be correct. To develop the Red Sea line to India on the existing 
basis would require, he thought, four steam vessels in Indian 
waters, costing altogether about £100,000 per year. Considering 
all factors, Peacock favored the opening of the Euphrates route, 
employing for this purpose two small, flat-bottomed steamers, at 
an estimated cost of about £14,000, to ply between the Persian 
Gulf and a point on the Euphrates opposite the Syrian coast. 0 
Four reasons were given for preferring the Euphrates: the ex¬ 
pense of developing the Red Sea route, which did not seem to be 
warranted by its political or commercial value; the navigability 
of the Euphrates the year round and the constant accessibility of 
Indian ports from the Persian Gulf; the necessity of controlling 
the Persian Gulf rather than the Red Sea in guarding against 
Russiaj and the suppressing of piracy in Indian waters by the 
utilization of the Persian Gulf route with armed steamers, which 
could at the same time carry on the communications. Peacock 
agreed with other advocates of the Euphrates route in believing 
that it should be considered supplementary to that by way of the 
Red Sea, and he urged the opening of both lines at the earliest 
possible date. 10 The recommendations of this recognized expert, 
though obviously representing the views of the proprietors of the 

6 Chesney, of, cit. y p. 146. 

7 Ibid., p. 148. 

8 Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, 3d Ser., XXIV, 142. 

9 i8 34> No. 478, Min. of Ev., p. 85 ibid., App. 2, p. it, Chesney 
had estimated the cost of such an experiment at £13,000. 

10 Ibid., Min. of Ev., pp. 1-13. 



SURVEYS OF THE EUPHRATES ROUTE 157 

East India Company and designed to save that concern as much 
expense as possible, were well received and considerably in¬ 
fluenced the report of the Committee. 

Chesney was summoned to report on his findings during the 
survey of 1830-1831. He gave an enthusiastic picture of the 
advantages which would undoubtedly result from a commercial 
development of the Euphrates. He believed that if order were 
secured and trade developed many of the nomadic Arabs would 
become fixed and industrious in their habits. He advocated the 
experimental opening of the Euphrates with steam vessels for 
the duration of a year, with subsequent action to be determined 
by the results of this trial. 

Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm was.strong in support of the 
Red Sea route. This was quite natural, for as the officer in charge 
of the Mediterranean squadron for a number of years he had 
seen the growth of the British steam packets in Mediterranean 
waters from a few experimental hulls in 1825 to a powerful fleet 
of fast steamers in 1834, making carefully scheduled trips be¬ 
tween Southampton and Malta. It had long been his desire to 
extend this line from Malta to Alexandria, there to connect with 
steam vessels coming from Bombay. This was the plan he had 
worked out in conjunction with his brothers, Sir John Malcolm, 
when Governor of Bombay, and Sir Charles Malcolm, who during 
the late twenties had been Superintendent of the Indian Navy 
with headquarters at Bombay. 11 However, as the Admiral had 
little knowledge of the Euphrates route, his advocacy of the Red 
Sea line contributed little to the final report. 

Among other witnesses was Thomas Waghorn, now the avowed 
rival of Chesney as he had formerly been of James W. Taylor. 
Waghorn’s testimony was characteristic—forceful, disjointed, 
exaggerated; but he nevertheless gave the impression of being 
exceedingly well informed. After reviewing his own efforts in 
the cause of steam navigation to India, Waghorn devoted his 
further remarks to the project of establishing a steam line direct 
from Suez to Calcutta on a quarterly basis, for which he consid¬ 
ered a Government loan of £20,000 sufficient. He was still of 
the opinion that the Cape route, of which he had long been a 
leading advocate, might be profitably employed by steam lines, 
but he had only slurs for the Euphrates project. 12 

A final bit of evidence, almost prophetic in character, was re¬ 
ceived from James Bird, of the Bombay Medical Establishment, 
who had travelled “ overland,” that is, by way of Egypt, from 
India. He identified himself as an accurate and impartial ob- 

11 Ibid., pp. 152-164. 12 Ibid., pp. 208-232. 



158 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

server, pointing out that the Euphrates and Suez routes each had 
peculiar advantages. But as to trade, he believed it would not be 
shifted to new channels at once merely by the opening of shorter 
lines of communication. “It can,” he said, “ only follow the 
construction of an iron railway or canal across the isthmus that 
divides the Red Sea from the Mediterranean.'” And as it was 
not clear to the Committee why there should once have existed a 
profitable trade overland through Egypt and through Syria which 
could not be readily revived, he pointed out that “ The commerce 
of ancient times was one of luxury, not of domestic manufacture, 
as at presentj and the articles being of small bulk and of com¬ 
paratively greater value than in these times, afforded to the mer¬ 
chant a profit that proved sufficient for meeting the expenses of a 
tedious land journey from the Euphrates (and the Red Sea) to 
the Mediterranean.” 13 

After carefully weighing the evidence from those most com¬ 
petent to speak on the subject in hand, the Committee prepared 
their report, which was so well founded and intelligent in most 
parts that it provided the groundwork for several similar com¬ 
mittees during the century. The report, dated July 14, 1 By4, 
stated as a thesis that “ a regular and expeditious communication 
with India by steam vessels is of great importance both to Great 
Britain and to India.” 14 It pointed out that the practicability of 
the Red Sea route during eight months of the year had been well 
established during the previous five years, and that although this 
was expensive, “ it is expedient that measures should be imme¬ 
diately taken for the regular establishment of steam communica¬ 
tion from India by the Red Sea. The fact was noted that steam 
had not been applied to the Persian Gulf route, where the south¬ 
west monsoon need not be taken into consideration, nor to the 
Euphrates River, where it was believed there would be no obsta¬ 
cles during most of the year. There was a question whether, 
during the dry season, the Euphrates could be navigated. 1 How¬ 
ever, since the monsoon months, June, July, August, and Septem¬ 
ber, did not coincide with the dry season in Mesopotamia, Novem¬ 
ber, December, January, and February, the Committee believed 
that “ the effective trial of both lines would open a certain com¬ 
munication with the Mediterranean in every month of the year, 
changing the line of the steam vessels on both sides according to 
the seasons.” 15 

13 Ibid. } pp. 216-218. 

14 Ibid. } Report of the Committee, pp. 3-45 Hansard’s Park Deb 3d Ser., XXV, 
930-932. 

15 That is, the two routes were to be synchronized, if possible. It was the 
southwest monsoon of the one versus the low water of the other. 



SURVEYS OF THE EUPHRATES ROUTE 159 

For carrying out these recommendations, the Committee pro¬ 
posed that the Malta line of steam packets be sent in the future 
to such ports of Egypt and Syria as would complete the com¬ 
munication. It was suggested that the expense of making a trial 
of the Euphrates route, estimated at £20,000, be voted by Parlia¬ 
ment, as the East India Company had already incurred heavy 
expense in the Red Sea experiments. In conclusion, it was urged 
that the report be acted upon as quickly as possible. 10 

Consideration of the Report came up in the House of Commons 
on August fourth. Anticipating the argument that any matter 
pertaining to the development of India should be at the charge 
of the East India Company, Charles Grant pointed out that some 
of the leading objectives of the proposed plan were political and 
hence belonged to Government. He showed further that the 
East India Company had already spent between £60,000 and 
£70,000 in tentatively developing a line of communication by 
way of the Red Sea, yet no permanent equipment had been ac¬ 
quired for the establishment of a regular service. He also re¬ 
marked that since the removal of the last vestiges of the 
Company’s commercial monopoly in 1833, responsibility for the 
establishment of lines for mail service, particularly those which 
possessed a strategic value, tended to devolve upon the British 
Government. It was, he said, “ the duty of England to watch all 
the modes of access to India.” 17 

No particular obj ection to the plan was voiced. There was 
some headshaking; even Grant admitted a considerable degree of 
doubt as to the practicability of the route for which he was asking 
an appropriation. But it was the general consensus of opinion 
that the political situation east of the Mediterranean demanded 
some action on the part of Great Britain, and that £20,000 was 
not too much to pay for securing the approaches to India. That 
amount, consequently, was appropriated, and thus, after years of 
disinterestedness and inaction the wheels of government were set 
in motion by the urge of foreign policy to bring about the estab¬ 
lishment of better means of communication. 

The India Board was entrusted with the task of carrying out 
the resolutions of the Parliamentary Committee with the funds 
voted by the House of Commons. One of the first tasks lay in 
the selection of the proper personnel for the difficult undertaking 
of placing and operating steam vessels on the Euphrates. Ches- 

16 A list of eighteen plausible reasons for preferring the Euphrates to the Red 
Sea route was printed in the Bombay Gazette, 7 Aug., 1833. 

17 Hansard's Pari. Deb., 3d Ser., XXV, 930-932. 



i6o BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

ney was, of course, the logical leader for such an experimental 
enterprise, and he was sounded by the India Office on his willing¬ 
ness to assume command. At first, either through lack of confi¬ 
dence in the reports he had made, or through extreme modesty, 
he demurred, and only consented to take over .the work, without 
pay, when he was informed that it was the King’s express wish. 
Upon accepting appointment, Chesney was instructed to surround 
himself with a trained personnel for the diverse tasks ahead. 
Most of the latter part of the year 1834 was devoted to this part 
of the business. 

The India Board meanwhile placed a rush order with.those 
pioneers of steamship construction, Messrs. Laird, ,h of Birken¬ 
head, near Liverpool, for two small, flat-bottomed river steamers, 
to be built in accordance with specifications to be furnished by the 
Commander of the Expedition. The cost of these vessels and of 
other equipment was considerably above the original estimates, 
and before the end of the year mounting expenses made it appear 
doubtful whether the Parliamentary appropriation would suffice 
for the work. At the same time, changes in the Cabinet made it 
impossible to approach the Government for a further appropria¬ 
tion. In this dilemma, the Court of Directors of the East India 
Company agreed to supply an additional £5000 for the venture. 
Also it was arranged that at the termination of the Euphrates 
Expedition the Company should purchase the two steamers and 
either employ them in working a permanent line of vessels on 
the Euphrates or, in the event of an unsatisfactory outcome of 
the survey, transfer them to India for the navigation of the 
Indus. 19 

Meanwhile, throughout the latter part of 1834 a gradual reac¬ 
tion had set in against the carrying out of the Euphrates idea. 
There were not lacking those among Government officials and 
strategists who ridiculed the whole idea. Some even maintained 
that the Euphrates route, far from opposing Russian designs, 
might, if developed, even aid Russian armies in reaching the 
Persian Gulf. 90 Opinion in India was generally against the ex¬ 
penditure of any large sum of money in attempting a doubtful 
project when the Suez route, of proved feasibility, was still un¬ 
developed. The Calcutta Courier said, “. . . We look at the 

18 Mx. M’Gregor Laird, of this firm, had been a witness before the Parliamentary 
Committee in June, 1834. Many of his suggestions concerning the proper equip¬ 
ment for a Euphrates steam survey were carried out. Pari, Pap,, 1834, No. 478, 
Min. of Ev., pp. 56-70. 

19 Ibid., 1837, No. 540, p. 7. 

20 Quarterly Review, LII, 405—406. 



SURVEYS OF THE EUPHRATES ROUTE 161 


project here as a very wild scheme, and an absolute waste of 
money. . . There are so many startling difficulties in the way 
. . . that we hope for no useful result from this expensive voyage 
of discovery.” 31 Lord Palmerston had at all times taken care 
not to commit himself to the undertaking, as he was fearful that 
any such move, backed by the Government, might aggravate the 
already unsatisfactory foreign situation. 22 A fatal blow to the 
whole project for a Euphrates Expedition was narrowly avoided 
when Lord Ellenborough replaced Charles Grant as President of 
the India Board in November at the time of the fall of the Grey 
Ministry. Ellenborough had been constantly hostile to the plan, 
and immediately upon taking office he gave instructions to have 
all preparations stopped. He soon found, however, that the work 
was too far advanced to be terminated easily, and a word from 
King William, who was exceedingly interested in the experiment, 
brought a grudging assent from the India Office. 23 

The selection of the personnel for the work was made with 
unusual care. Every one of the fifty young officers and men 
chosen was an expert in some line of endeavor, and most of those 
who survived the Expedition distinguished themselves in later 
years in some kind of national service. 24 Most of these men, 
recruited from the British Army and Navy, the Indian Navy, and 
English technical industries, were ready for service before the 
steamers were completed. Several of them were sent out to 
Syria to make preliminary surveys of the roads to be taken in 
transporting the equipment from the Syrian coast to the Euphrates 
at Bir. Lieut. Henry Blosse Lynch, I.N., a rather remarkable 
linguist and diplomat, did excellent service during the winter 
of 1834—1835 among the Arabs in preparing them for the inno¬ 
vation to follow, though much of his work was undone by Me- 
hemet Ali after the Expedition arrived in Syria. 25 

At the same time, other agencies had been at work. The 
British Ambassador at Constantinople, Lord Ponsonby, had se¬ 
cured from the Porte an official permit for the Euphrates Expedi¬ 
tion. This was issued on December 2,9, in the form of an Im- 

21 Calcutta Courier , 30 March, 1835 j quoted in Asiatic Journal, XVIII, N.S., 
Pt. II, 10. 

22 Hansard’s Part. Deb., 3d. Ser., CXLVII, 1652—1662, 1676—1683 ; Quarterly 
Review, CII, 392 ff, 5 Lane-Poole, of. cit p. 446. It was the same kind of fear 
on Palmerston’s part which wrecked a mature plan for a Euphrates Valley Railway 
in 1857. 

23 Lane-Poole, of. dt pp. 281, 304. 

24 Annual Register, 1835, Pt. II, 18; David Fraser, The Short Cut to India 
(London, 1909), p. 2555 A. H. Layard, in the Quarterly Review, CII, 366 n. 

25 Low, History of the Indian Navy, II, 33-34; Chesney, Narrative of the 
Euphrates Expedition, pp. 547-548. 



1 62 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


perial firman , which came to have an importance .later in the 
century out of all proportion to that originally assigned to it. 
Addressed to all the Turkish officials along “ the two banks of the 
Euphrates,” it continued: 

The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of 
Great Britain . . . Lord Ponsonby . . . has presented at 
our Sublime Porte an official note, by which it appears that 
the British Government asks permission to navigate alter¬ 
nately two steam boats on the river Euphrates, which flows 
at a little distance from Bagdad, in order to facilitate 
commerce. 

In consequence, an order has been sent to our . . . Gov¬ 
ernor of Bagdad and of Bussora, Ali Riza Pasha, to furnish 
our Sublime Porte with information on the proposed navi¬ 
gation. 20 

Although the answer of the Pasha has not yet arrived, the 
British Ambassador has made yet further representations on 
this head, informing our Sublime Porte that the English 
Government awaits our reply. 

Therefore, we have permitted and do permit two steam 
boats to navigate the Euphrates, alternately, and this naviga¬ 
tion may continue as long as it results in no inconvenience, 
and an official note containing the substance of this has been 
transmitted to the British Ambassador. 

A Firman couched in the same terms has been addressed 
to the Pasha of Bagdad and of Bussora. . .~ 7 

This interesting document furnished to the Expedition was 
destined to serve as a charter for the subsequent commercial 
navigation — not of the Euphrates — but of the Tigris River by 
an English concern, originally organized by the firm of Lynch 
Brothers, of whom two served with the Euphrates Expedition. 20 

26 It subsequently appeared that the Pasha of Bagdad was not at all averse from 
the project. 

27 Lewis Hertslet (Comp.), A Complete Collection of the Treaties and Conven¬ 
tions, and Reciprocal Regulations . . . between Great Britain and Foreign Powers 
• * * so far as they relate to Commerce and Navigation . . . (24 vols., London, 
1840—1907), XIII, 838 — a French text. The translation is mine. A mediocre 
and incomplete English version is given in C. U. Aitchison, A Collection of Treaties , 
Engagements and Sunnuds Relations to India and Neighbouring Countries, VII, 15. 

28 Just how this firman could be taken as applying to the Tigris is difficult to 
understand. Fraser, in his Short Cut to India } p. 254 f., suggests that the Forte did 
not appreciate the difference between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in 1834, and 
believed that Bagdad was situated on the latter stream. A Vizi rial Letter issued by 
the Pasha of Bagdad in 1846, relative to the navigation of the Euphrates and Tigris 
by English steam boats, may be considered as supplementing and amplifying the 



SURVEYS OF THE EUPHRATES ROUTE 163 

The essential character of the Euphrates Expedition and some¬ 
thing of its political bearing were indicated by a set of instructions 
issued by the Foreign Office. Chesney was made Colonel on 
special mission — 

For the establishment of a communication between the 
Mediterranean Sea and His Majesty’s possessions in the East 
Indies, by means of a steam communication on the River 
Euphrates. . . It will be Colonel Chesney’s first duty to use 
every exertion to secure the success of the Expedition in the 
shortest possible time, and always to bear in mind the neces¬ 
sity of making his arrangements in such a manner as that 
their utility may be permanent in the event of his success. . . 
Colonel Chesney is always to bear in mind that the character 
of the Expedition is one of peace j that it is undertaken with 
the permission of a friendly power, without whose counte¬ 
nance and cooperation success cannot reasonably be ex¬ 
pected. . 

However, even with the consent and support of the Turkish 
Government, it became problematical whether the Expedition 
could proceed. A considerable part of the course of the Expedi¬ 
tion through Syria and down the Euphrates River lay within the 
territory assigned to Mehemet Ali by the terms of the Turco- 
Egyptian agreement of 1833. The Pasha had no wish to bring 
about an open breach with England, but he had no sympathy with 
a project which might easily lead to the establishment of a per¬ 
manent barrier to his territorial ambitions. So while, promising 
aid to the Expedition “ as far as his authority extended,” actually 
he employed every possible device to thwart the success of the 
experiment. In this he was largely successful, as will be noted. 30 

Arrangements for the survey were not completed quite as soon 
as expected. Meanwhile, a controversy developed regarding the 
proper starting place for the survey. Members of the India 
Board believed the steamers should be shipped around the Cape 
and through the Persian Gulf to Basrah, where there would be 
some facilities for assembling the steamers. Chesney, however, 
was a bit doubtful regarding the ability of the steamers to make 
headway against the stiff current in many places along the course 

firman of 1834. Her islet’s Com. Treat., XIII, 839-840. Cf. the divergent state¬ 
ments in A. H. Layard’s Autobiography and Letters (London, 1903), I, 331 n., and 
in The Near East, II, 358. 

29 Park Pap., 1837, No. 540, p. 55 Chesney, The Expedition for the Survey of 
the Rivers Euphrates and Tigris, I, xi. 

30 Fontanier, Voyage dans I’Inde, I, 165 Annual Register, 1835, Pt. II, 19. 



164 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

of the Euphrates. He insisted that the Expedition should in the 
first instance proceed down the river, and he finally gained his 
point. 31 

Plans were outlined therefore by which the Expedition was to 
proceed first to Suedia (Seleucia) at the mouth of the Orontes 
River, which was to serve as a point de depart. From here the 
impedimenta of the Expedition would be transported overland 
past Antioch to the nearest point on the Euphrates, where the 
steamers would be set up and launched. It was calculated that 
the melting of snows at the headwaters of the Euphrates would 
contribute much to the success of the Expedition, and every effort 
was made to have the steamers ready against the spring flood of 
1835. 32 It was stipulated by the India Board, however, that if 
the Expedition was unable to cross the Syrian mountains and 
desert to the Euphrates, the steamers and other material were to 
be carried by sea to Bombay, whence the Expedition would pro¬ 
ceed to the Persian Gulf and so undertake an initial ascent of 
the river. 33 

The two iron river steamers, appropriately named the 
Euphrates and the Tigris, were ready early in 1835, and were 
peculiarly adapted to the work in hand. While they measured 105 
feet and 87 feet respectively in length, they drew less than three 
feet of water. To guard against accidents in the rocky channel of 
the Euphrates, the hulls were divided into several water-tight 
compartments. The engines were constructed to accommodate 
either coal or wood as fuel, and their fifty and forty horse-power 
was considered sufficient to propel them up any rapids likely to be 
encountered. The two vessels, for facility of transportation, 
were made up into convenient sections and loaded on an ocean¬ 
going vessel, the George Canning, where all stores were packed 
so as to make transshipment from the Syrian coast to the Euphrates 
as easy as possible. 

With all at last in readiness, one of the most ambitious path¬ 
finding expeditions ever undertaken left Liverpool on February 
4, 1835, and sailed for the Mediterranean. The George Canning 
called at Malta for a number of laborers, and touched also at 
Cyprus, reaching the Bay of A’ntioch at the mouth of the Orontes 
on April 3- 34 

81 Pari. Paf., 1834, No. 478, pp. 60, 61, 63. 

32 Asiatic Journal, XV, N.S., Pt. II, 237-238. 

83 Pari. Paf., 1837, No. 540, p. 6; Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of 
London, IV, 374, 375. This was Ellenborough’s arrangement. He had insisted on 
an ascent of the Euphrates being made ever since the Expedition was assured. 

34 Annual Register, 1835, Pt. II, 19-. 



SURVEYS OF THE EUPHRATES ROUTE 165 

It had originally been supposed that the Euphrates and Tigris 
could be transported from the coast across the Syrian desert, some 
120 miles, and launched on the Euphrates River in time to take 
advantage of the spring freshets in April and May of 1835. To 
this end, an attempt was made to navigate the steamers up the 
Orontes as far as Antioch. 35 Immediately after the arrival of the 
Expedition at Seleucia, Chesney’s engineers begun assembling 
the Tigris , the smaller of the two vessels. While this was in 
progress, other materials were landed from the George Canning, 
an exceedingly slow and hazardous process. As soon as the Tigris 
was assembled, her engines were fired and an ascent of the river 
was undertaken. It was soon found that while engines and paddle 
wheels functioned well, the steamer was incapable of proceeding 
far up the river, both because of the shallow water and the rapid¬ 
ity of the current. Consequently the vessel had to be prepared 
for haulage overland. 38 

Meanwhile the transport of other machinery and stores to the 
Euphrates had begun. From the very outset there occurred a 
heartbreaking series of mishaps and delays, which at times threat¬ 
ened to terminate the whole undertaking. One of the greatest 
troubles was the unreliability of native workmen. Arab chiefs 
who had definitely engaged to furnish bullocks, camels, or asses, 
failed to give any assistance, in spite of the liberal hire offered. 
Supplies of food bargained for were not delivered. Natives who 
were employed on one day were often missing on the next — 
having removed with them sundry stores or bits of machinery 
belonging to the Expedition. The most astonishing accidents 
occurred 5 wagons were overturned, machinery was broken, draft 
animals were stampeded — all without rime or reason — though 
the Arabs assisting with the work volubly protested their inno¬ 
cence and regret. At times desert sheiks rode in to the scene of 
operations with bands of armed followers to rejoice at the dis¬ 
comfiture of the English. 37 Very soon it became obvious that an 
organized system of sabotage was in operation, and that unless it 
could be overcome, the Expedition would never reach the 
Euphrates. 

The principal source of these difficulties was presently traced 
to the activities of Ibrahim Pasha, son and generalissimo of 

35 Suggestions were made at one time or another during the thirties for a ship 
canal between the Euphrates and the Orontes as possibly more practicable than one 
between the Red Sea and the Nile or Mediterranean. 

30 Chesney, of. tit., pp. 179-192} Lane-Poole, of. tit., pp. 295 if. 

37 Part. Pap., 1837, No. 540, pp. 13—155 Asiatic Journal, XX, N.S., Pt. II, 375 
Chesney, of. tit., pp. 172 fL, 4695 Lane-Poole, of. tit., pp. 293-295. There are 
continual hints at Russian collusion in these Syrian troubles, but this may have been 
largely mere suspicion. 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


1 66 

Mehemet All, who was at this time operating with an Egyptian 
force not far from the scene of the Expedition’s labors in Syria. 
Partially suspending transport operations, Chesney sent his diplo¬ 
matic staff to wait upon Ibrahim and even went in person to 
demand the support which had previously been promised by 
Mehemet Ali and the Sultan alike. 3 '' Little satisfaction was ob¬ 
tained, however, until after the British authorities had made 
vigorous representations to Mehemet Ali on the state of affairs 
in Syria. Then, upon the receipt of new orders from Egypt, 
Ibrahim changed his attitude and suddenly displayed as much 
zeal for the cause of steam navigation on the Euphrates as he had 
formerly shown opposition. He took upon himself the task of 
coercing the Syrian peasants into lending aid to the transport. 
But his assistance bore fruit chiefly in his sending out of some 
Turkish notables from Antioch to assist in roadmaking. This 
was of course a terrible blow to Turkish pride, and Ibrahim must 
have taken malicious delight in thus overtly insulting the Sultan, 
while furnishing a not too effective assistance to the Euphrates 
Expedition. 38 

By this time many weeks had elapsed; the Euphrates River 
was past the flood stage, and still the heavier pieces remained near 
the port of disembarkation. Furthermore, as spring gave place 
to Syrian summer, disease came to block activities and to take its 
toll. Fever and dysentery played havoc with the European force, 
until at one time the able-bodied were barely able to prevent the 
complete collapse of the project. In the autumn, Colonel Ches¬ 
ney, who had been working at high pitch and doing the labor of 
several men, was stricken with fever. For weeks he lay at the 
very point of death. Meanwhile, little more could be done by 
his men than to guard the more essential parts of machinery and 
supplies from injury and to prepare a yard for the assembling 
of the steamers on the Euphrates. 

These and other difficulties combined to extend the work of 
transporting and assembling the steamers at Fort William, near 
the Arab town of Bir, from the estimated month to nearly a year. 

38 On the hostility shown by the river Arabs, see Asiatic Journal , XVIII, N.S., 
Pt. II, 173, 237. 

39 Chesney, of. cit. } p. 1995 Barker, Syria and Egypt under the last Five Sultans 
of Turkey , II, 216, 2175 Asiatic Journal , XV, N.S., Pt. II, 94* XVIII, M.S., Pt. II, 
265 London Times, 29 Dec., 1835. The motives which prompted Egyptian inter¬ 
ferences were probably threefold: (1) fear of being cut off by the British from 
further conquests to the north, (2) pique at being treated as vassals of the Sultan, 
and (3) the desire to confine new commercial routes to Egypt, where goods In 
transit might be made to yield a revenue. Mehemet Ali encouraged British enterprise 
in developing the Red Sea route in every way, and had already ordered the con¬ 
struction of a railway between Alexandria and Suez for British use. Egypt paid 
for the success of this policy by eventually becoming a British protectorate. 



SURVEYS OF THE EUPHRATES ROUTE 167 

The delay naturally involved much additional expense, also 5 but 
owing to the peculiar and unexpected nature of the difficulties 
which had arisen, the India Office took steps to obtain additional 
funds. Sir John Hobhouse, who had succeeded Lord Ellen- 
borough at the Board of Control early in 1835, was heartily in 
sympathy with the objects of the Expedition. Upon receiving 
news of Chesney’s illness, he wrote, November 2- 

You may depend upon receiving every support from the 
home authorities, and as the delay occasioned by the Pasha of 
Egypt has added to your disbursements, I think it my duty 
to apply to His Majesty’s Government, as well as to the 
Court of Directors, for some addition to the Parliamentary 
Grant. . . Whatever may be the result of this enterprise, 
due justice will be done to your endeavors to ensure its 
success. 40 

Shortly after this an additional £5000 was authorized by Parlia¬ 
ment for the experiment. This and other funds subsequently 
subscribed by the East India Company made possible the con¬ 
tinuation of the work and a testing of the route.' 11 

During the spring months of 1836, the transport of the Ex¬ 
pedition’s equipment was completed. Following the arrival at 
Fort William of the engine boilers, the work of assembling went 
on rapidly and preparations were completed for the descent while 
the river was still at flood stage. The Euphrates was launched 
and given a successful trial on March 16. Chesney calculated 
that Basrah, at the head of the Persian Gulf, should be reached 
within two months, and that an ascent of the river with mails 
from India might be made before the river reached its lowest 
stage. Despatches stating such an intention were sent both to Sir 
John Hobhouse, at the Board of Control, and to the Bombay 
Government, so that arrangements might be made in the Medi¬ 
terranean, on the one hand, and in Indian waters, on the other, 
for effecting the quickest possible transport of mails between 
India and England. 42 This was one of the prime objects in 
undertaking the survey, and the one which would most readily 
furnish useful data as to the relative efficiency of the Euphrates 
and Suez routes. 

40 Pari. Pap., 1S37, No. <>40, p. 7. A special firman, addressed to Mehemet Ali, 
was issued in December, 1835, by the Sultan, commanding the Pasha to facilitate 
British trade in every way possible. — British and Foreign State Papers, XXIII, 
1291-1292. 

41 Chesney, of. cit p. 199. 

42 Park Paf., 1837, No. 478, p. 20. 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


168 

The Euphrates left the temporary base at Fort William soon 
after her trial trip and proceeded slowly down the great river. 
.She waj=pthen joined by the Tigris , which, being the smaller vessel, 
steamed’.ahead and acted as pathfinder among the many rocky 
rapids ai}d sand banks.' 13 The technical staff meanwhile made 
constant soundings, laid down large-scale maps of the river which 
"ane still considered of value, and took careful note of conditions 
along the river banks. At Beles, the point on the river nearest 
Aleppo, some tentative arrangements were made for a postal 
station and commercial depot which would be needed when the 
line should be in full operation. A little further on, at Deir, 
bitumen and coal in some quantities were found and were tested 
in the ships’ engines with fair results. 44 

The first part of the survey was made, on the whole, quite 
successfully. But in the midst of the uneventful and quiet de¬ 
scent of the river a disaster occurred, which all but brought the 
whole enterprise to a sudden tragic end. On the twenty-first of 
May, about one o’clock on a calm afternoon, a cloud of sand 
suddenly appeared across the low, flat river valley. Then almost 
without warning, a cyclonic storm, entirely blotting out the day¬ 
light with clouds of whirling sand, swept over the river and 
enveloped the two steamers which were proceeding with the sur¬ 
vey. So entirely unexpected was the storm that no precautionary 
arrangements could be made. As the wind struck, the two vessels 
became unmanageable, drifted, and nearly collided. The Eu¬ 
phrates, however, was with difficulty driven in to a bank and made 
secure. The Tigris barely missed being so fastened, fell off into 
the stream, turned broadside to the gale, and was overturned and 
instantly sunk in the midst of the channel. Most of those on 
board perished, fifteen officers and men and five natives in all, 
including Lieut. R. B. Lynch of the Bengal Artillery, brother of 
the second in command of the Expedition. Both Colonel Ches- 
ney and Lieut. H. B. Lynch were on the Tigris at the time of the 
wreck, as that vessel had been leading in the survey; but both 
narrowly escaped by swimming ashore in the almost total dark¬ 
ness. After the storm had passed, some time was spent in search¬ 
ing for other possible survivors and in taking account of losses. 
In addition to the irreparable loss of life, some of the maps and 

43 The Arabs are reported to have been very much depressed at the sight of the 
armed steamer, recalling their old saying: 

“When iron floats on the water, 

There is nought for the Arabs but dispersion or slaughter,” — 

Chesney, Narrative , pp. 203, zz6 . 

44 Lane-Poole, of, ck. } p. 324. Cf. New York Times Current History , XVII, 
931-938. These bitumen springs appear to have been used since ancient times. 



The Roadstead of Suez about \ 840 







SURVEYS OF THE EUPHRATES ROUTE 169 

most of the scientific instruments were lost as well. 45 As the 
recovery of the sunken vessel was out of the question, the Eu¬ 
phrates was left to continue the survey alone, most of the remnants 
of the crew of the Tigris returning to England. 46 

Although deeply grieved and depressed by this shocking loss, 
Chesney displayed his characteristic indomitable courage, that 
quality which, more than any other, fitted him for command. 
Fearing the effect of the disaster on the continuation of the sur¬ 
vey, since the available funds were already nearly exhausted, he 
wrote in hopeful vein to Sir John Hobhouse: 

The hurricane has been, it is true, a most trying and calam¬ 
itous event j but I believe it is regarded by all, even at this 
early day, as having no more to do with the navigation of 
the Euphrates, in other respects, than the loss of a packet in 
the Irish Channel, which might retard, but could not put an 
end to, the intercourse between England and Ireland. We 
are therefore continuing our descent . . . hoping ... to 
bring up the mail from India within the specified time. . . iT 

The determination to continue was heartily approved by the 
India Board, 48 and additional funds were supplied that every 
effort might be made to carry Indian mails 'at least once from 
Basrah to a point opposite one of the Syfidn-' ports on the Medi¬ 
terranean. Steam vessels were already waiting at both ends of 
the Euphrates line, and it remained only for the Expedition to 
supply the missing link. This continued to be the principal im¬ 
mediate object of the survey. 

Most of the lower course of the Euphrates was navigated with 
somewhat greater expedition than the section between Bir and 
Anah. All of this portion had been surveyed by Chesney in 1831, 
but even with this advantage, a great deal of trouble was expe¬ 
rienced in passing through the Lemlum marshes. There the 
river separated into many small tortuous channels, and the main 


4,0 A monumental drinking fountain was erected in Bombay by governmental 
and public subscription soon after the disaster, commemorating' those who lost their 
lives. Asiatic Journal, XXIII, N.S., Pt. II, 45. 

46 London Times, 29 and 30 July, 18365 Asiatic Journal, XX, N.S., Pt. II, 2375 
XXV, N.S., Pt. II, 98. Attempts to raise the vessel were made later, and although 
once reported successful, they failed. A part of the iron hull was discovered in a 
sand bank years later. Cf. “ Report of Mr. William Tartt, Superintending Engineer 
of the Euphrates and Tigris Steam Navigation Company,” May, 1879, in W. P. 
Andrew, The Euphrates Valley Railway: a Lecture (1883) pp. 89-90. 

47 Pari. Pap., 1837, No. 540, pp. 21-235 Annual Register, 1836, Pt. II, 64 f.$ 
Lane-Poole, of. cit., p, 327. 

48 Pari. Pap., 1837, No. 540, p. 10. 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


170 

course of the river was often difficult to discover. In many places 
shore parties had to warp the steamer around sharp bends in the 
stream. Other delays were due to efforts made in passing to 
conciliate the numerous and powerful Arab tribes in lower 
Mesopotamia and to start a bit of traffic in English wares. At 
some points along the river trading operations were quite success¬ 
ful, and Chesney reported to the India Board that they had £C sold 
and bartered largely with much advantage.” t!> 

As the Expedition approached the head of the Persian Gulf, 
the friendly overtures of the party were generally not well re¬ 
ceived by the Arabs. This was not so much due to prejudice 
against the innovation of steam navigation, apparently, as it was 
the result of the machinations of the French Consul at Basrah, 
M. Victor Fontanier. That wily diplomat had already had much 
experience in western Asia, having served as special agent of the 
French Government in the Near East during the years 1821— 
1829. 50 In 1835 he was again sent out on special mission to dis¬ 
cover the ulterior objects of the British Government in organizing 
the Euphrates Expedition, and to report on British activities gen¬ 
erally in western Asia and in India/’ 1 This commission was per¬ 
formed zealously enough, even though he knew none of the 
native languages and had to rely on interpreters. From the time 
of the arrival of the Euphrates Expedition in Syria, Fontanier 
was stationed at Basrah, where he used every means at his com¬ 
mand for obstructing the progress of the steam survey. Largely 
to his efforts was due the increasing hostility of the Arabs toward 
the English along the lower course of the river. Fontanier even 
persuaded the Arabs to cut down and throw palm trees into the 
river at one point, and he had suggested the possibility of stretch¬ 
ing a series of iron chains across the river in order to bar the 
progress of the steam vessel altogether/" He wrote of the Ex¬ 
pedition not long afterward, 

4,9 Park Pafi* } 1837, No. $40, p. 24. Chesney reported on several occasions that 
there were good indications of a profitable trade. 

50 Victor Fontanier, Voyages en Orient^ Entrcfrh far Ordre du Gouvernement 
Frangais > de PAnnie 1821 a PAnnie 1829. . . (2 vols., Paris, 1829). 

51 Fontanier, Voyage dans PInde et le Golfe Persique , far PEgyfte et la Mer 

Rouge . (2 parts in 3 vols., Paris, 1844-1846.) C£. London Times, 29 Dec., 1835. 

In quoting his instructions and in giving the details of his work, apparently with 
the approval of the French Foreign Office, Fontanier related facts and incidents of 
no ordinary delicacy and significance. Whatever may have been the effects of his 
writings in France, they undoubtedly contributed much to English apprehension of 
French motives and policies for a number of years. He was evidently convinced that 
“This was not a simple voyage of discovery undertaken by love of science or of 
glory, but a question of the greatest gravity, of which the events of 1840 were a 
consequence.” — I, 289. 

62 Park Pap., 1837, No. 473 , p. 495 Astatic Journal , XXIII, N.S., Pt. II, 1165 



SURVEYS OF THE EUPHRATES ROUTE 171 

I have studied the details with some care, and though I 
may know the results it is hoped to attain, I do not think one 
need flatter himself that it will succeed all at once. . . I do 
not think an enterprise executed under his [the Duke of 
Wellington’s ] direction could result in taking away, in Asiatic 
affairs, the advantages to which our geographic position and 
our anterior relations give us an incontestible right. 53 

In consequence of these difficulties, it was only on June 18 that 
the Euphrates reached Kurnah, at the junction of the Tigris and 
Euphrates Rivers. On the following day the Expedition arrived 
at Basrah, on the Shaat-el-Arab, near the head of the Gulf, 
where a rousing welcome was given by the little English colony. 61 

Looking toward a rapid descent of the Euphrates River by the 
Expedition, arrangements had been made during the spring for 
one of the Indian mails to be brought to Basrah by the Hugh 
Lindsay , which was to carry back to India the despatches, now old, 
brought l>y the Euphrates. Accordingly, the Hugh Lindsay had 
arrived in the Shaat-el-Arab from Bombay some weeks before 
the appearance of the Euphrates , bringing out both mails and 
passengers. But when the Expedition did arrive at last, an over¬ 
hauling of the steamer was obviously required before an ascent 
of the river could be attempted. As this would necessitate fur¬ 
ther delay, the commander of the Hugh Lindsay , already long 
out of patience, determined to carry his cargo on to Suez, return¬ 
ing thence to Bombay for new orders before again proceeding to 
Basrah. The first Indian mails intended for the new route thus 
reached Europe by the passage through Egypt or “ overland ” 
route. 

Proper facilities for the repair of the Euphrates were to be 
found only at Bushire, on the eastern shore of the Persian Gulf, 
and there the steamer was taken as quickly as possible. While 
repairs were in progress, Chesney and a few of his party sailed 
across the Gulf to Grane, on the Arabian coast, in order to send 

W. F. Ainsworth, Personal Narrative of the Euphrates Expedition (2 vols., London, 
1888), II, 75, 94-96. Cf. Fontanier, Voyage dans PInde, I, 295. Fontanier threw 
all the blame for Arab hostility on a fanatical English missionary named Samuel. 
His polemical literature and rash statements just at the time of the arrival of the 
Expedition at Basrah probably did give rise to the idea among the Arabs that the 
British were intending to impose Christianity by force, and the British functionary 
at Basrah had to compel Samuel to leave, meanwhile publicly burning his literature. 

68 Fontanier, Voyage dans Plnde, I, 291-292, 310, 3115 Lane-Poole, op. cit., 
p. 344. Fontanier was treated with uniform consideration and generosity by the 
British authorities with whom he came in contact, however, 

54 Pari. Pap., 1837, No. 47 s > PP* 24, 255 Lane-Poole, op. cit pp. 327-336. 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


172 

despatches to England by the desert route, which had been em¬ 
ployed at irregular intervals for about half a century. Chesney 
hoped by this means partially to neutralize the disappointment 
arising in England from the many delays and accidents to which 
the Expedition had been subject. He also considered this a fitting 
occasion for sending to the India Board a series of reports on the 
work already accomplished by the survey and on the feasibility 
of permanently establishing a steam line on the Euphrates. To 
supplement his own statements, he asked each of his officers for 
a written, sealed opinion on the advantages of the route being 
surveyed. 

Most of these reports, reflecting the ideas and wishes of the 
Commander, spoke in glowing terms of the feasibility of opening 
a Euphrates steam route. The political advantages of the line 
were reiterated and the commercial possibilities were reviewed. 
The friendliness of the Arabs was emphasized.'’’' 1 Only Capt. 
J. B. B. Estcourt referred pessimistically to the difficulties which 
the Lemlum marshes afforded. He believed it 'would be neces¬ 
sary to cut a canal for some 23 miles through a section of the 
marshes before river navigation could be developed in an efficient 
manner. 

Chesney added his own statement to the others. In this he 
minimized the difficulties of navigation on the Euphrates, though 
he thought it might be necessary to cut a short channel through a 
part of the marsh region. His rather visionary schemes, which 
tacitly admitted the presence of very real obstacles along the 
course of the Euphrates, greatly weakened the whole case for the 
development of the projected route. Nevertheless, in summing 
up his remarks on the practicability of the Euphrates line, Chesney 
said, “ It will be admitted, on all hands, that the great river 
[Euphrates], considering its length, is one of the most navigable 
in the world.” 50 This statement neither he nor any subsequent 
navigator of the Euphrates was able to prove. 

The many interruptions suffered by the Expedition during the 
descent to the Persian Gulf created among Government heads in 
England the feeling that while the Commander possessed an 
ample supply of courage and optimism, he was somewhat lacking 
in that singleness of purpose essential to the accomplishment of a 

55 Pari, Pap., 1837, No. 540, p. 29. In establishing a post at Mohammerah for 
the navigation of the Karim, Chesney enlisted the aid of the sheik of that district 
by taking him under British protection, although he was in revolt against Turkish 
authorities. Thus, a convenient precedent was established for the blockade of the 
Bagdadbahn below Bagdad in similar fashion early in the twentieth century. See 
Fontanier, Voyage, etc., I, 308. 

66 Pari, Pap., 1837, No. 540, pp. 26-35. 



SURVEYS OF THE EUPHRATES ROUTE 173 

prearranged program. This opinion became a conviction as the 
reports of the Expedition’s officers were perused and as instruc¬ 
tions from England were repeatedly ignored. Instead of con¬ 
centrating on an ascent of the Euphrates after reaching the Gulf, 
on which the verdict of success or failure depended, Chesney 
decided to widen his operations by making scientific and com¬ 
mercial surveys of the other principal rivers finding outlets in the 
Persian Gulf. As the Euphrates was reconditioned before the 
arrival of the second Indian mail, a brief survey was made of 
the lower Karun River, although the hostility of the Arabs made 
the venture extremely hazardous/ 7 Upon the return to Basrah, 
Chesney determined to carry some newly-arrived Indian mails up 
the Tigris to Bagdad, whence they might be sent overland to the 
Syrian coast. This decision to postpone further the ascent of the 
Euphrates took no note of the fact that arrangements had just 
been completed by the India Board at considerable expense to 
establish a steam link between Malta and the Syrian coast for the 
express purpose of conveying to England a mail transmitted by 
the Euphrates line/* 

The Euphrates arrived at Bagdad on September 30 without 
particular incident, though considerable time had been lost in the 
cutting of green firewood along the river banks. Members of 
the Expedition received a warm reception at the City of the 
Caliphs, where Major Robert Taylor was still British Resident 
and where the ruling Pasha was kindly disposed toward British 
mercantile enterprise/” Several days were spent here, occupied 
in fuelling the vessel and discussing the position of the city on the 
projected Anglo-Indian route in relation to both trade and com¬ 
munication. Before returning to Basrah, the Expedition pro¬ 
ceeded for a considerable distance farther up the Tigris River 
surveying and mapping. This and various delays during the 
descent occupied considerable time, so that it.was October 16 
when the Euphrates again arrived at Kurnah. Here the Hugh 
Lindsay was found, whose Captain had been very impatiently 

57 The Arabs of this region, who were claimed both as Turkish and Persian 
subjects, gave allegiance to neither Government, an attitude productive of frequent 
hostilities. 

M Park Pap., 1837, No. 540, pp. 8-11, 255 <£ A General Statement of the 
labors ... of the Expedition to the Euphrates . . . in Journal of the Asiatic 
Society of Bengal , V, 675-682. 

69 Major Taylor was a leading advocate of the Euphrates route. His brother 
had perished in a fray with the Arabs while attempting a survey of the Euphrates 
in 1830, his son gave testimony in favor of the route before the Parliamentary 
Committee of 1834, and his daughter married Lieut. H. B. Lynch, of the Euphrates 
Expedition, in 1838. Taylor owed his influence in Mesopotamia partly to his own 
family connections, having espoused the daughter of a- well-to-do Armenian. 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


174 

waiting for a fortnight. 80 The opportunity to establish a note¬ 
worthy record in the transmission of the mails to England was 
already lost, but nevertheless preparations were made for an im¬ 
mediate ascent of the Euphrates with the belated despatches. 

The first stage of the ascent proceeded well in spite of the low 
level of the river. Difficulties rapidly multiplied, however, when 
the Lemlum marshes were reached. Here the steamer had to be 
towed almost entirely through the narrow, tortuous channels by 
land parties. But fate ended even this slow progress. On 
October 30 a faulty air-pump of the Euphrates drew in some river 
sand and a piston head was broken, thus ending the last hopes that 
the river might be ascended within the time assigned for the com¬ 
pletion of the work. A return to Basrah was imperative. But 
there was still a chance to get the mails through to the Syrian 
coast. One of the party, a Mr. James Fitzjames, volunteered to 
carry them on overland. He, with some of the other passengers 
who had come out from India, proceeded up the river in a hired 
native boat, hoping to cross from the upper Euphrates to Aleppo 
and so to the coast. Hardly had this group passed from the view 
of those on the steamer when they were attacked by a band of 
Arabs, utterly despoiled of their belongings including mails and 
clothing, and threatened with death. After considerable delay 
they were released. Fitzjames managed to recover the greater 
portion of the mails and to continue his way by slow stages, being 
entirely without means. Eventually he reached the coast of Syria 
and the mails were sent on to England, arriving fully three 
months later than had been expected. 01 

Chesney’s original instructions from the India Board directed 
that after he had once reached Basrah he should consider himself 
under the direction of the Indian Government. There the direct 
authority of the Board of Control was to cease and that of the 
East India Company was to replace it, since it had been arranged 
that any permanent line of communication between the Persian 
Gulf and the coast of Syria should be operated by the India 
authorities. No instructions from India reached Basrah ahead of 
the Expedition, however, and Chesney therefore acted on his own 
responsibility. Following the mishap to the Euphrates at the 
Lemlum marshes, it was apparent that nothing further of great 
importance could be accomplished during the few weeks remain¬ 
ing of the time allotted to the Expedition. Hence at Basrah, 

60 Asiatic Journal, XXII, N.S., Pt. II, 51 5 Pari. Paf., 1837, No. 540, p. 40. 

61 Pari. Pap., 1837, No. 540, pp. 42, 55; Lane-Poole, of. cit pp. 352-3545 
Fontanier, of. cit., I, 341-3435 Asiatic Journal , XXIII, N.S., Pt. II, 1x6, 2 61. 
Fitzjames lost his life with the ill-starred Arctic Expedition under Sir John Franklin. 



ATTEMPTS TO OPEN EUPHRATES ROUTE 175 

where the Hugh Lindsay still lingered, Chesney arranged to sail 
to Bombay to plead at that Presidency for additional time and 
money for the Euphrates survey. The Euphrates, which was 
quickly repaired by an engineer of the Hugh Lindsay, was turned 
over to Captain Estcourt with instructions to employ the time 
remaining in completing the surveys of the Karun and Tigris 
Rivers before disbanding the Expedition at Bagdad on January 

3V 8 37-° s 

Soon after Chesney’s arrival at Bombay, a meeting of the sub¬ 
scribers of the Bombay Steam Fund was held to consider his plans 
for the further development of the Euphrates route. In answer 
to the objection that the first attempts had not demonstrated the 
possibility of conveying mails or goods up the Euphrates, Chesney 
insisted that the object had not been to open a mail route at once, 
that it was “ never contemplated, or provided for in any way 
but that the object had been to determine the navigability and 
commercial opportunities of the Euphrates, Tigris, and Karun 
Rivers, all of which had been accomplished. 03 The Bombay mer¬ 
chants were favorably impressed with Chesney’s account of the 
commercial possibilities of Mesopotamia, and considered appro¬ 
priating £7000 of their steam fund for the permanent establish¬ 
ment of two small steamers on the Euphrates, in case other 
portions of the whole line were developed by British or Indian 
authorities. 

Chesney next approached the Bombay Government with the 
suggestion that “ on account of the moral as well as real strength,” 
the opening of the River Euphrates should be in connection with 
the development of the Red Sea route. He proposed that for 
a period of twelve or eighteen months Indian steamers should 
sail alternately to Suez and Basrah, at the end of which time 
experience should determine whether both routes should be per¬ 
manently established. 01 The Bombay authorities, while appar¬ 
ently favorably inclined, pleaded lack of authority to act, and 
referred the matter to the Supreme Government at Calcutta. 
Here the scheme was turned down as impracticable. Chesney 
therefore was compelled to leave India with no more apparent 
result from his efforts than the gold-mounted sword presented to 
him by the Bombay merchants. 65 

« 2 Chesney, Narrative, pp. 322, 329; Pari. Pap., 1837, No. 540, pp. 43 “ 47 - 
Cf. Sir E. A. W. Budge, By Nile ami Tigris (2 vols., London, 1920), I, 212. 

« 3 Asiatic Journal, XXIII, N.S., Pt. II, 4S> 297• Cf. Pari. Pap., 1837, No. 540, 

pp. XI, 12. 

Ibid., No. 540, pp. 46-475 Asiatic Journal, XXIII, N.S., Pt. II, 36. 

0 ® Chesney, op. cit., pp. 328—33See Asiatic Journal , XVII, N.S., Pt. II, 276. 
While Chesney had been engaged with the survey, his enemies, and Thomas Waghorn 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


176 

Meanwhile, the Expedition under Estcourt continued surveys 
of the Karun and Tigris Rivers until an accident to the rudder of 
the steamer forced a return to Bagdad. Here, on January 16, 
1837, the vessel came to rest and the Expedition was officially 
disbanded. One of the most ironical incidents of the whole sur¬ 
vey was the receipt of an order from Bombay, just after the 
Euphrates had been laid up and her crew discharged, directing 
that the work of surveying and opening up the Tigris and Eu¬ 
phrates Rivers be continued until further notice. This tardy 
assumption of control by the Bombay Government came too late, 
however, and several months elapsed before a new force under 
new auspices could resume the work." 0 Most of the disbanded 
personnel of the original Expedition proceeded overland on 
camels from Bagdad to Beirut, whence they reached England by 
way of Malta at the end of May, 1837- <!r The Euphrates, now 
transferred to the Indian Government, was not taken to the Indus 
River, as originally planned, but was left at Bagdad in temporary 
charge of an English consular agent, Mr. Alexander Hector. 
This aggressive young man, far from seeing in the dissolution of 
the Expedition the end of British enterprise in Mesopotamia, 
saw instead only the commencement. He presently undertook 
the establishment of a mercantile house in this old commercial 
entrepot and made a distinct success of it. ux 

Chesney reached England in August, 1837, realizing that the 
immediate opening of the Euphrates route, at least in the manner 
he had advocated, was a forlorn hope. His final recommenda¬ 
tions to the Board of Control added nothing essential to reports 
sent back from time to time during the course of the survey. 00 
His optimism with regard to the Euphrates line was not shared 
by members of the British and Indian Governments, by the 
public, or even by several of Chesney’s own officers. 70 The lack 
of enthusiasm arose from the fact that from the original organiza¬ 
tion of the Expedition in England in 1834 to the embarkation of 


in particular, had lost no opportunity to undermine the Expedition and the 
Euphrates Expedition in favor of the Suez passage. 

86 Pari. Paf., 1837, No. J40, pp. j5-56, 62-63; Ann. Reg., 1837, Pt - H, 5 2 > 

Chesney, of. cit., p. 3325 Lane-Poole, of, cit., p. 357, 

67 Asiatic Journal , XXIII, N.S., Pt. II, 72. 

68 p ar i^ paf mJ 1837, No. 540, p, 565 Annual Register , 1837, Pt. II, 52 ff.; Layard, 
Autohiografky , I, 331. 

69 Pari. Paf., 1837, No. 540, pp. 51-545 Lane-Poole, of. cit., pp. 337-3635 
Chesney, Exfedition for the Survey of the Eufhrates and Tigris , II, 600-601, 
673-686. 

70 See the statement by Capt. J. B. B. Estcourt in Pari. Pap., 1837, No. 540, 
p. 61. 



SURVEYS OF THE EUPHRATES ROUTE 177 

the survivors at Beirut in 1837 its whole course had been marked 
by delays, accidents, and disappointments. Of the nineteen 
officers originally commissioned, only seven were with the Ex¬ 
pedition at its close; and but thirteen out of the original force of 
seventy-five Englishmen remained to be disbanded. 71 Death, 
discharge, and special missions had taken a heavy toll. Starting 
with high hopes and the confidence of officialdom, it ended in 
reproach, disowned alike by the British and Indian Governments. 

"1 he cost of the survey was not one of the least of the charges 
against it. In 1834 Chesney had estimated the probable maxi¬ 
mum expense of the undertaking at £13,000, which was then 
considered a plausible amount by members of the British Cabinet 
and othei s. In order to provide for possible contingencies and 
to make possible a thorough experiment unhampered by lack of 
funds, Parliament and the East India Company appropriated at 
various times some £30,000. Yet at the breaking up of the Ex¬ 
pedition in January, 1837, the experiment had cost more than 
£ 43 > 00 9 , exclusive of some £2000 which Chesney had expended 
from his private funds." Yet not one piece of mail from India 
had been delivered in England the sooner. 73 In view of these 
shortcomings, it is not strange that a host of critics lost no oppor¬ 
tunity of heaping ^opprobrium on the Euphrates idea and its 
principal exponent. 71 

Nevertheless, the Euphrates Expedition was far from being 
the total failure generally believed. From the scientific point of 
view, it added a great deal of knowledge of the geography of 
western Asia. The existing commerce along ancient highways 
was computed and future trade opportunities were estimated. 
Strategic locations were considered, together with the political 

71 Journal of the Royal Geog. Soc. of London, VII, 411, 412 j Pari. Pap., 1837, 
No. <540, pp. 62-66; Asiatic Journal, XXIV, N.S., Pt. I, 237-248; Fontanier, 

op. cit., I, 294. 

72 Pari. Pap., 1837, No. 540, pp, 64-66. By various economies, this was 
actually reduced to a tritie less than £40,000. Chesney and one of his officers served 
entirely without pay, Chesney, Narrative, pp. 374-377, Fontanier, op. cit., I, 311. 

7a A Bombay journal, in sarcastic vein, commented on this in the following 
<c halting lines n : — 

“ Let us set up three lines instead of one 
Ere the Red Sea line has fairly begun; 

Oh! weep by the waters of Babylon 
O'er two lakhs spent and still more to pay, 

Besides a few mails that have gone astray. n 

Quoted In James Douglas, Glimpses of Old Bombay and Western India, p. 134. 

74 James Barber, A Letter to the Right Honourable Sir John Cam Hob house, 
(London, 1837), PP* 5* Capt, Melville Grindlay, A View of the Present State of 
the Question as to Steam Communication with India . . . (London, 1837), p. 10. 



178 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

value of routes traversing Syria and Mesopotamia.' 3 A more 
important result was the reestablishment by the Indian Govern¬ 
ment of the dromedary land route from Basrah across the desert 
regions to Damascus and Beirut. This was designed to serve two 
of the purposes for which the Euphrates Expedition had been 
organized, namely, to keep a hand on the general political situa¬ 
tion in Asiatic Turkey and in Persia, where war was looming up, 
and to develop lines which might be used for the rapid transmis¬ 
sion of important despatches between Bombay and London, 
should the route through Egypt be closed for any reason. Before 
1840 the eastern terminus of the line had been shifted from 
Basrah to Mohammerah, whence a fast fortnightly service to the 
Mediterranean via Bagdad and Damascus was maintained in spite 
of plundering Arabs. 70 

The principal count that can be brought against the Euphrates 
survey lies in the fact that it postponed for a time the develop¬ 
ment of a route the utility of which had already been proved 
and which was badly needed — that by way of Egypt and the 
Red Sea. But even this suspension of activity was of brief dura¬ 
tion. Following the long delays in 1835 and 1836 in getting the 
survey of the Euphrates River actually under way, governmental 
attention quickly reverted to the Red Sea line which lacked only 
a sufficient quota of ocean steamships and an arrangement with the 
Viceroy of Egypt to be made effective. New steamships for the 
Red Sea line were put under construction in 1836, and by the end 
of the Euphrates Expedition they were almost ready for service. 
On June 10, 1837, another Select Committee of the House of 
Commons was authorized, u to inquire into the best Means of 
establishing a Communication by Steam with India by way of the 
Red Sea.” 77 Evidence presented before the new Committee 
practically ignored the Euphrates surveys and the revived drome¬ 
dary post road through Mesopotamia as well. All matters per¬ 
taining to the use or development of lines extending between 
Syria and the Persian Gulf were left to the East India Company 
and the Indian Presidencies. 

The report of the Committee of 1837', given in on July 15, 
did little more than sanction arrangements which were already 
well under way for the inauguration of a new steam service be¬ 
tween Bombay and Suez. It ran, in part, as follows: 

76 Cf. Geographical Journal, XLI (1913), 246-248. 

76 Bombay Courier , 3 Jan., 18375 Asiatic Journal , XXVII, N.S., Pt. II, 159, 
294—55 Fontanier, Voyage dam PInde, I, 309, 3x0, passim ; Rev. Horatio Southgate, 
Narrative of a Tour through Armenia , Kurdistan , Persia^ and Mesopotamia . . . 
(2 vols., New York, 1840), II, 188-189. The communication between Bagdad and 
India remained somewhat irregular, depending chiefly upon the arrival of steamers 
in the Persian Gulf, while it was kept up at definite intervals with Beirut and 
Constantinople. 77 Park Pap 1837, No. 539, p. iv. 



SURVEYS OF THE EUPHRATES ROUTE 179 

Your Committee have learned with much gratification 
that arrangements have been entered into between Her 
Majesty’s Government and the East India Company for the 
establishment of a Monthly Communication by Steam from 
Suez to Bombay, and they hail with satisfaction the liberal 
spirit in which the Court of Directors have met the proposi¬ 
tions of Her Majesty’s Government for thus affording a 
direct intercourse with one portion of the continent of India, 
and facilitating a communication for Letters with all the 
Presidencies. 

Inasmuch as ... a direct communication by Steam from 
the Red Sea to Ceylon, Madras and Bengal, would be prac¬ 
ticable at all seasons of the year by the employment of 
vessels of adequate tonnage and power; and as, under judi¬ 
cious arrangements, such extended establishments would 
appear to offer a prospect of an adequate return for the 
increased outlay, by the conveyance of Passengers, and of 
some valuable articles of Merchandize, which cannot be ex¬ 
pected from the limited communication with Bombay alone; 
Your Committee feel bound to recommend a continued and 
zealous attention to the subject on the part of Her Majesty’s 
Government and the East India Company. . d 8 


This recommendation was'fully carried out while the. political 
situation in western Asia and in Egypt was most unsatisfactory. 


The Euphrates Expedition as originally constituted broke up 
at a rather critical moment. The political motives which gave 
Parliamentary support to the steam survey in 1834 were stronger 
than ever in 1837.™ In view of the avowed designs of Russia 
and of France, of lukewarmness in Turkey and open opposition 
in Egypt, Persia, and Afghanistan, and of war clouds looming up 
in far-off China, British officialdom was loath to terminate all 
national enterprise in Asiatic Turkey.' The attempts of the 
Russian Ambassador at Constantinople, M. Boutenieff, to have 
British commercial privileges in Mesopotamia cancelled added 
much to British firmness. This wily Russian diplomat at one 
time appeared to be making some real headway with his protests 


78 Ibid., p. iii. 

79 British and Foreign State Papers, XXIII, 864* XXV, 1247, 1253, lz 75> 

Asiatic Journal, XXII, N.S., Pt. I, 23 M Fontanier, of. at., II, 206 fL; Joumdof 
the Royal Ceog. Soc. of London, V, 297-305; Ross, Opinions of the European Pr s 
on the Eastern Question, pp. 410-435, passim. 

89 Pari. Pap., 1841, Nos. [321.], [304.], [ 3 2 3 -l. Ca P 4 - J ohn Hall > Sn S lanii 
and the Orleans Monarchy, Ch. 7. 



i8o 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


against the firman of 1834. 81 It was the expressed British view 
that K Mesopotamia may yet become the soil on which the 
dominion of the East is to be disputed.” 82 So, in spite of the 
decision of the Supreme Government of India not to support 
Chesney’s recommendations for steam navigation on the Eu¬ 
phrates, the Board of Control late in 1836 authorized the Bombay 
Presidency to carry on the work of river navigation until it was 
adjudged altogether impracticable, which meant until the political 
horizon had cleared. 

There is reason to believe that the India authorities welcomed 
the opportunity to continue the river surveys under a commander 
more tractable, obedient, and attentive to the imperial cause than 
Colonel Chesney had been. A more acceptable officer was found 
in Lieut. Henry Blosse Lynch. After the dissolution of the 
Euphrates Expedition, he had been placed in charge of that section 
of the new Bombay postal line between Bagdad and Damascus, 
where he had been very successful in having mails transmitted 
on schedule time. 83 Since he was better acquainted with the lan¬ 
guages and mannerisms of the peoples of Mesopotamia and 
Syria than perhaps any other available person, he was selected by 
the Bombay authorities as commander of a new force, styled 
cc The Expedition to the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers.” Lynch 
thereupon assumed command of the Euphrates steamer, pending 
the arrival of some new, light-draught river steamers, which the 
Company was having constructed in England. 

The next two years were devoted largely to the completion of 
the surveys of the River Tigris, data being collected at all seasons 
of the year. These surveys covered the entire course of the river 
from Armenia to the Persian Gulf, adding considerably to the 
knowledge of the river and its drainage basin. Considerable 
attention was given during this work to commercial prospects, 
which were subsequently exploited by British enterprise. 84 At 
the same time, this series of river surveys reaffirmed the political 
value of the Tigris and Euphrates valleys and added appreciably 
to British influence in that part of Asia throughout the rest of the 
century. 85 

During the new series of surveys the Euphrates River was 
again approached from the Persian Gulf. The first attempt to 
ascend the river in 1836 had resulted in failure due to the 

81 Ainsworth, of. cit., II, 198. 82 Asiatic Journal , III, 3d Ser., 77. 

88 Low, History of the Indian Navy, II, 43. 84 Ibid., p. 44, 

85 Pari- P a fn 1 ^37— 1 S38, No. 356, p. 65 Journal of the Royal Geog. Soc. of 
London, IX, 441, 442$ J. R. Wellsted, Travels to the City of the Calif hs, along the 
Shores of the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean (2 vols., London, 1840), I, 104- 
106. See the statement in A. H. Layard, Nineveh and Babylon, p. 474. 



SURVEYS OF THE EUPHRATES ROUTE 181 

Lemlum marshes. But in May, 1838, Capt. John C. Hawkins, 
I.N., in command of the Euphrates and with a crew from the 
Indian Navy’s armed cruiser Clive , succeeded in passing the 
marshes after six days of unremitting toil. The river above was 
ascended without much difficulty to a point about five hundred 
miles from Basrah, though the nature of the obstacles encoun¬ 
tered made the establishment of a regular steam line on the 
Euphrates appear, as it had earlier, clearly out of the question. 86 

Early in 1839, the Court of Directors sent out to the Persian 
Gulf three iron , river steamers, designed further to establish 
British influence in Mesopotamia and to make trial of the Arab 
trade. 1 hese were made up in sections in England, loaded on 
sailing vessels, and despatched as secretly as possible round the 
Cape of Good Hope to Basrah. s ‘ Several months were required 
to assemble and launch the vessels, and they were not employed 
until the next year. The spring of 1840, however, saw a flotilla 
of four steamers bearing British colors on the Shaat-el-Arab. 
These were the Assyria, Nitocris, Nimrod , and the now decrepit 
Euphrates. The ablest officers of the Indian Navy were selected 
to man the vessels, upon whose exploits rested much of British 
reputation in the Middle East. Besides Lieut. H. B. Lynch, 
there were Lieut. C. D. Campbell, Lieut. Felix Jones, Lieut. 
H. W. Grounds, and Lieut. Michael W. Lynch, joined later by 
Capt. \V. S. Selby, all of whom acquired enviable records for the 
performance of difficult enterprises. 88 

Most of the year 1840, a year in which war between Britain 
and France over Syria seemed more than likely, was given over 
to the periodic navigation of the Tigris from Basrah to Bagdad 
with mails, goods, and passengers. 89 New surveys were resumed 
in 1841. Capt. Selby made an examination of the Karun River 
as far as Shuster, including its branches and tributaries. 90 The 
Euphrates River was also ascended for a thousand miles by two 

Ht * Asiatic Journal , XXXVI, M.S., Pt. II, 277-278 $ Low, of. cit. } II, 43. 

H7 Asiatic Journal , XXXVI, N.S., Pt. II, 725 Low, of. cit. y II, 45. 

HK H. P. B. Lynch, Armenia: Travels and Studies (2 vols., London, 1901), II, 
440$ Budge, By Nile and Tigris , I, 224* Low, of. cit. y II, 33-35, 45 i Chesney, 
Narrative , pp. 547—548. Lieut. H. B. Lynch was invalided to England in July, 
1840, and his brother, Lieut. Michael W. Lynch, died at Diarbekr, on his way to 
England, in 1841. A third brother had perished on the ill-fated Tigris . Capt. 
Selby was badly wounded by Arabs in June, 1841, from the effects of which he 
died after reaching 1 England. The mortality among the pioneers of British im¬ 
perialism was exceedingly heavy. 

89 Pad. Paf* } 1840, No. [323.], Pt. II, 299-300. Turing the height of the 
war feeling, Lieut. Lynch transmitted bulletins on the numbers of armed forces in 
Arabia, which had considerable influence on the policy of the British Foreign Office. 

90 P. M. Sykes, Ten Thousand Miles in Persia . . . (London, 1902), p. 246* 
Low, of. cit. } II, 475 Layard, Autobiography3 II, 105 Clive Bingham, A Ride 



182 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

of the steamers under Lieut. Campbell, but although the ascent 
was made successfully at the time of the spring freshets, the de¬ 
scent, which was delayed until autumn for political reasons, was 
marred by several serious accidents. 51 

These later surveys were almost altogether ignored, both by 
the British Government and the Government of India. After 
the several upheavals which ushered in the forties, the Near and 
Middle East rapidly subsided into relative quiescence, and the 
presence of armed steamers on the rivers of Mesopotamia for 
moral purposes was no longer necessary. 1 ’ 2 These supplementary 
surveys, however, constitute the bond of union between the at¬ 
tempts to open a through highway between England and India 
by the original Euphrates Expedition and projects for a British- 
controlled railway line through the Euphrates Valley, which were 
very much in evidence in 1856 and 1857. 

In 184a the Expedition for the Survey of the Euphrates and 
Tigris Rivers was formally ended. Pursuant to orders from the 
Court of Directors, three of the river steamers were withdrawn 
from Mesopotamia, and were transported, with their officers and 
crews, to the Indus River by the new and powerful steamer 
Semiramis , which was otherwise engaged in operating the Suez 
line. It is of some interest to observe that Lieut. Felix Jones, 
with the Nitocris, remained behind to protect British interests at 
Bagdad and to continue the exploration of the country between 
the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers as opportunity offered. Such 
surveys were continued, as a matter of fact, by the “ Surveyor of 
Mesopotamia,” until the Indian Navy was abolished in 1863, the 
naval steam forces in the region of the Persian Gulf being aug¬ 
mented as political conditions in Persia and neighboring countries 
demanded. 93 

Through Western Asia (2d ed., London, 1897), pp. 159, 160. Selby, who was 
badly wounded in an affair with the Arabs near Bagdad in June, 1841, gives his 
own account of the survey in the Journal of the Royal Geog, Soc. of London, XIV, 
219-246. A. H. Layard, who became prominent years later in diplomatic work, was 
a member of this surveying party. See his Early Adventures in Persia, Susiana and 
Babylonia ... (2 vols., London, 1887), II, 341—366. 

91 Transactions of the Bombay Geographical Society, VI, 169-1865 Chesney, 
Expedition, etc., II, 699-7065 Asiatic Journal, XXXVI, N.S., Pt. II, 72-73, 2415 
Barker, op. cit. } II, 244-2455 HertslePs Com. Treat., XIII, 839. 

92 Budge, op. tit., I, 2125 Morning Chronicle, 10 Aug., 18415 Chesney, Nar~ 
native, p. 5585 Richard Coke, Baghdad: the City of Peace (London, 1927), pp. 
270—271. 

93 Journal of the Royal Geog, Soc. of London, XVIII, 1—195 Low, op. cit., II, 
49, 505 Layard, Autobiography, II, 105 Quarterly Review, CII (1857), 367 (not 
an accurate account) ; “ Lettre du Grand Vizier au Pacha de Bagdad, relative a la 
Navigation de PEuphrate et du Tigre par les Bateaux a Vapeur Anglais, le 2 Avril, 
1846,” in HertslePs Com. Treat., XIII, 839, 840. The work of Lieut. Jones was 
later supplemented by that of A. C. Holland, commanding the new armed steamer 
Comet, stationed in the Persian Gulf primarily for moral reasons. 



CHAPTER VIII 


PAVING THE WAY TO INDIA 

O F THE many surveys made along the routes to India 
in the nineteenth century, that of the original Euphrates 
Expedition was doubtless the most spectacular. In 
some respects, however, it was not the most important. Scientific 
information had been collected and geographical and commercial 
conditions had been noted, but no practicable line of communica¬ 
tion had been opened up by the Expedition. The surveys which 
were more resultful to this end and which contributed most di¬ 
rectly to the opening of new lines of transit were those conducted 
by the members of the naval force attached to the Bombay Presi¬ 
dency, which was known during most of its history as the Bombay 
Marine. 

The origin of this unique service dates from the earliest days 
of the Blast India Company’s activities. At the very outset all 
vessels of the Company were heavily armed and no discrimination 
was made among them for naval duty. But in 1612 a marine 
establishment was created, principally for the purpose of pro¬ 
tecting the Company’s Indian factories from the Portuguese, and 
this laid the foundation for a separate naval force later on. 1 Soon 
after the acquisition of the Island of Bombay, all of the Com¬ 
pany’s naval forces in the East were centred at this strategic 
port, and the Bombay Government retained control of the Marine 
until its final dissolution on April 30, 1863/ During this long 
period the character of the work assigned to the Marine varied 
greatly from time to time as conditions in eastern waters changed 
and the interests of the Company fluctuated, but throughout its 

1 Low, History of the Indian Navy, I, 16; Parliamentary Pafer, 1852-1853, 
No. 627, p. 145. Low was one of the officers of the Indian Navy who outlived the 
establishment and was later entrusted with writing its history from such papers as 
remained in the archives of the Company. Most of the early records were destroyed 
at the time of the abolition of the service. 

2 Low, op. cit., I, 54 fL, II, 569-571; Asiatic Journal, III, N.S., Ft. II, 86. On 
1 May, 1830, the official name of the service was changed from “Bombay Marine” 
to “ Indian Navy.” 

183 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


184 

history it remained one of the leading features of the Company’s 
organization in staking out, protecting, and developing the 
Empire of India. 

Upon this Service fell the duty of protecting both European 
and Indian merchant shipping in the East from enemies and from 
the swarms of pirates which had flourished in those waters for 
many centuries. Coupled with this was the task of suppressing, 
as far as possible, the trade in slaves, which had long been a lead¬ 
ing activity of the Mohammedan peoples inhabiting the regions 
around the Arabian Sea. Also the excluding of European inter¬ 
lopers from Indian waters was a large item in the routine work 
of the Marine. 3 The conditions, both moral and physical, under 
which these duties were performed produced by sheer process of 
elimination a magnificent marine force while the territories be¬ 
longing to the Company were still few and scattered. The 
strenuous nature of the work also produced a set of traditions 
such as always attach to an organization performing difficult tasks 
in a courageous manner. Even the Royal Navy could show no 
greater spirit of loyalty or devotion to duty than the Bombay 
Marine, although the exploits of the latter were never widely 
known in the mother country. The Company did not make a 
practice of lauding its servants, and these carried on their work in 
regions so remote and so little known that their exploits rarely 
attracted attention. Outside of the Company’s own sphere, little 
notice was given the fact that during the wars of the eighteenth 
century the Marine furnished able assistance on many occasions 
in eliminating the French from Indian waters. 4 Bare mention is 
made in English chronicles of the part played by this force in the 
undoing of Napoleon Bonaparte in Egypt by convoying Indian 
troops to Egypt, cutting off access to India by sea, and by estab¬ 
lishing offensive and defensive positions. It was by these and 
other performances that the units of the Service pacified the 
eastern seas, made them into highways of trade and communica¬ 
tion, and eventually rendered themselves no longer necessary. 

Not nearly all of the work performed by the Bombay Marine 
in promoting the Company’s interests was military or naval in 
character. During the eighteenth century it became a scientific 
as well as a fighting Service, and it was in this connection that 
the Marine contributed most to the linking up of England and 
India. As early as 1772, scientific surveys of the coasts of India, 
the adjacent coasts of Persia and Arabia, and some of the island 

3 Pari. Paf 1852-1853, No. 6 27, p. 145, evidence given by James Cosmo 
Melvill before a Select Committee of the House of Lords. 

4 Low recounts many such incidents. 



PAVING THE WAY TO INDIA 185 

groups in the Indian Ocean were undertaken by the Government 
of India and carried out by the marine officers of the Bombay 
Presidency." Ihese surveys, which had as their purpose not 
merely the collection of data to be entered on sailing charts but 
information concerning the lands and peoples proximate to the 
Indian Ocean as well, were carried on steadily until the wars with 
revolutionary Prance interrupted them. After the ending of the 
French menace in Egypt and the illusory Peace of Amiens, they 
were recommenced in 1804 an d carried on until almost every 
mile of the shore line between India and Africa had been laid 
down on accurate, large-scale maps and the commercial poten¬ 
tialities of the countries adjacent estimated. 8 

Before the opening of the nineteenth century, all surveys had 
been more or less casual since their object was to reduce the dan¬ 
gers of navigation. The Napoleonic Expedition to Egypt in 
1798 and the presence of I Tench troops in that country for some 
years thereafter suggested the need for more detailed informa¬ 
tion concerning the shores of the Red Sea. Besides, the great 
increase in navigation during the late eighteenth century made it 
imperative that additional knowledge be obtained and more ac¬ 
curate charts be made of extensive sections of coast bounding the 
Arabian Sea which had not been delineated before. 

In 1803, therefore, the Governor-General of India, Lord 
Wellesley, authorized the sending of the vessels of the Marine 
to explore the Red Sea. This survey was entrusted at his own 
request to George, Viscount Valentia, who had gone out to India 
in 1802. It was his purpose to sail up the African shore of the 
Red Sea, for he “ felt it as a national reflection, that a coast which 
had afforded a profitable and extensive trade in gold, ivory, and 
pearls, to the sovereigns of Egypt, should be a perfect blank in 
our charts.” r This voyage was made in the Antelofe, a vessel of 
the Bombay Marine commanded by a Captain Keys, but while 
the mouth of the Red Sea and adjacent ports were examined at 
some length, the expedition failed to accomplish much because 
of a feud which developed between Lord Valentia and the Cap¬ 
tain. The survey was therefore abruptly broken off. 8 It was 
continued in December, 1804, by the cruiser Panther. Some 
progress was made at intervals until 1806, by which time the 
situation in Egypt appeared no longer to call for such expensive 
precautionary measures. There was little trade at this time be- 

5 Low, of eit,) !, 185, 

6 Ibid., 1 , Ch. XIIj Pari. Paf., 1852-1853, No. 627, p. 146. 

7 George, Viscount Valentia, Voyages and Travels, II, 4* 

8 Lord Valentia has given in great detail the account of the voyage and its 
difficulties in his Voyages and Travels , II, 7-85. 



186 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


tween India and Red Sea ports, that of the eighteenth century 
having largely fallen off. 8 

Soon after the surveys of the Red Sea had been begun, the 
many and obvious advantages to be obtained from a more thor¬ 
ough knowledge of the Indian Seas and the countries beyond 
them led to the creation of a new and important post in the Indian 
Administration, that of Marine Surveyor-General. Surveys of 
Indian waters did not begin to assume a very important character, 
however, until the appointment of Capt. Daniel Ross as Marine 
Surveyor-General in 1823. In the decade which his service cov¬ 
ered, he justly earned the title of “ Father of Indian Surveys,” 
and through his far-sighted and careful administration of his 
duties he laid British interests throughout the East under per¬ 
manent obligation. 10 

In 1828 Sir John Malcolm, Governor of Bombay, determined 
to undertake a series of experimental voyages with the object of 
establishing a permanent steam communication between Bombay 
and Suez. This program necessitated a new inspection of head¬ 
lands, channels, and way stations, as well as the allocation of suit¬ 
able fuel depots for the proposed steamers, one of which was then 
being constructed at Bombay. In order to provide more readily 
the facilities needed for steam communication, the Marine force 
was partially reorganized and transformed. The new arrange¬ 
ment made both officers and enlisted men liable for any kind of 
duty either on the standard armed sailing vessels of the Marine 
or on the steam vessels about to be added. This change was 
exceedingly unpopular with the Marine force, whose traditions 
were intimately bound up with the handling of stanch sailing ships. 
The liability of service on the small, unsightly, and noisy steamers 
of the time, complicated in manipulation, foul with soot and dust 
from burning a low grade of coal, and very limited in radius of 
action, was considered a deep humiliation. Nevertheless, in no 
great time, the steam arm of the Marine greatly widened its 
usefulness and contributed much to the growth of British hegem¬ 
ony throughout the East. 

This change in the functions of the Service was followed by an 
appropriate change in name. From May 1, 1830, the Marine was 
officially designated the Indian Navy, an appellation earned by 
more than two centuries of distinguished service. 11 Much of the 

9 See the “ Progress of Maritime Surveys,” in the Journal of the Asiatic Society 
of Bengal , I, 327. 

10 Sir Clements R. Markham, A Memoir on the Indian Surveys (zcl ed., London, 
1878), pp. 8-10. 

11 Low, of. cit.j I, 532. Cf. Pari. Paf 1900, [Cd. 131], “Final Report of 
the Royal Commission on the Administration of the Expenditure of India,” pp. 
114—119. 



PAVING THE WAY TO INDIA 187 

Na\ v s v ot k after this date consisted not merely in the charting 
of maritime channels and coast lines, but in the “ pacification ” of 
maritime native states and the acquisition of ports and coaling- 
stations by other means than purchase or negotiation. For these 
phases of the development of new lines of communication the 
Indian Navy was well adapted. 

The program of land and marine surveys inaugurated in 1828 
occupied the attention of the Indian Navy for nearly a generation 
and made possible the development of regular steam lines cover¬ 
ing long distances in eastern seas before there was any comparable 
service in European waters. The first step in developing these 
lines was taken with the despatching of Commander Robert 
Moresby to explore the group of small islands off the Malabar 
coast of India known as the Laccadives. Here in this myriad of 
islands it was thought good harbors might be found offering pro¬ 
tection, fresh water, and suitable coaling stations for steamers en 
route' from Calcutta or Madras to the Persian Gulf or Red Sea. 
Careful investigation failed to disclose any such promising loca¬ 
tions, however, and this island group, extending from io° to 14 0 
North Latitude, was thereafter almost totally neglected. 12 

Meanwhile, Sir John Malcolm was completing his plans for a 
steam line from Bombay to Suez. Under his instructions a steam 
vessel was put under construction in one of the Bombay shipyards. 
This vessel, built of India teak and fitted with engines and boilers 
from England, and christened the Hugh Lindsay, was ready for 
service in 1829. In order to test the plan of making regular 
voyages to Suez it was necessary that coal depots be established 
and navigation charts of the Red Sea be prepared as rapidly as 
possible. Early in 1829, Commander Moresby was withdrawn 
from his survey of the Laccadives and was despatched from Bom¬ 
bay in the armed cruiser Thetis to “ determine the best course at 
all seasons for steamers proceeding from Suez.” 13 This was a 
large order, considering the difficulties inherent in the Red Sea, 
and the survey could not be entirely completed for several years. 

The expedition, consisting of the Thetis and a brig consort 
carrying a supply of coal, set out in due time for the Red Sea. 
While new navigation maps were being prepared, supplies of coal 
were deposited at various ports in the Red Sea and at Suez. 14, On 
the return voyage to India, the brig was wrecked and lost on an 

12 J. Stanley Gardiner, in The Oxford Survey of the British Empire (Ed. by 
A. J. Herbcrtson and O. J. R. Howarth), (London, 1914), H (Asia), Chap. 9, 
fassim. Commander Moresby was the brother of the Admiral of the British fleet, 

Sir Fairfax Moresby. 

VA Low, of. cit, t II, 68-695 Asiatic Journal , XXVIII, 0 . S., 339, 622. 

Asiatic Journal, XXVIII, O.S., 339, 506, 759* See the India Gazette , 5 March, 
an cl the Bengal Chronicle^ 12 March, 1829. 



188 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


uncharted island in the Red Sea, which untoward incident had 
the effect of hastening plans for a complete survey and charting 
of that long body of water. Immediately upon the return of the 
Thetis to Bombay in March, 1830, a more effective surveying 
expedition was formed. Moresby was commissioned to chart the 
northern half of the Sea from Suez to Jeddah in the Palin unis, 
while one of his fellow officers, Capt. Elwon, was ordered to per¬ 
form a similar task for the southern half in the Benares , both 
vessels being detached from the usual duties of the Marine for 
this purpose. 15 With some intermissions, the triangulation sur¬ 
vey thus begun was continued for four years, every part of the 
Sea being carefully explored. The personnel of this expedition 
consisted largely of carefully selected young officers from the 
Bombay Marine, who found in this enterprise a valuable school 
of experience. Almost all who survived the exceedingly trying 
conditions under which the work was carried on distinguished 
themselves later in the cause of steam communication. 11 ' 

The survey of the Red Sea was followed by careful chartings 
of the southern coasts of Arabia, including some of the neigh¬ 
boring island groups. Especial attention was given to the Island 
of Socotra, which was considered by the Bombay Government as 
affording a logical place for the establishment of coal and water 
depots on the steam line to Suez. 17 The survey of Socotra was 
entrusted to Commander Stafford B. Haines, who terminated his 
work in less than a year chiefly because of the protests of the 
Sultan of Fartash, one of the Arab chieftains of the mainland, 
who exercised authority over the island. But such an attitude was 
not permitted long to interfere with plans for steam communica¬ 
tion. Capt. Daniel Ross was immediately sent out to negotiate 
with the Sultan and his relatives, with the object of securing for 
the Indian Government the right of landing coal and supplies at 
one or more of the harbors on the island. Capt. Ross, by a judi¬ 
cious use of persuasion and determination, succeeded in obtaining 
an Agreement whereby the British were accorded the desired 

15 During the work of the International Scientific Commission in 1855, “it 

was found that all the charts hitherto published of the roadstead of Suez were 
inaccurate with the exception of that by Commander Moresby, published in 1837.” 
New Facts and Figures Relating to the Isthmus of Suez Canal , by Barthelmy St. 
Hilaire (Ed. by F. de Lesseps), p. 9. 

16 kow, op. cit.j II, 70—725 Markham, op. cit, } p. 15. Several of these men 
lived to see the end of the Service to which they had devoted their lives. 

17 Pari. Pap. } 1834, No. 478, Min. of Ev., p. 10 5 Low, op. cit. } II, 75. In 
April, 1835, ^e Hugh Lindsay touched at Socotra for the first time en route from 
Suez to Bombay with mails from England which had been brought to Alexandria 
in the steamer African belonging to the British Admiralty. This line of com¬ 
munications was in definite, though not regular, operation by this time. 



PAVING THE WAY TO INDIA 


189 


rights. 


Immediately after the departure of Capt. Ross, how¬ 
ever, vessels of the Indian Navy experienced difficulty in securing 
the promised privileges at Socotra, and it became evident that the 
Arabs had little intention of fulfilling their promises. In order 
to settle the matter effectually, Commander Haines was supplied 
with the sum of 10,000 German crowns for the purchase of the 
island, while u in anticipation of success ” a small fleet and force 
of marines was made read}' to occupy the island after the purchase 
had been consummated. 111 This force reached Socotra in 1835, 
where Haines lost no time in opening negotiations with the Sultan, 
who was at that moment on the island. Even in view of the 
imposing force brought from India, the Sultan doggedly refused 
to sell the island or an}' part of it. This emergency had been 
anticipated, however, and the marine force which had been sent 
out ostensibly to take peaceable and lawful possession of Socotra 
proceeded to occupy its strategic positions without leave." 0 

The British occupation of the island was of short duration. 
The harbors, having shallow and dangerous bars, were all found 
to be unsuited to the needs of steam vessels. The water supply 
was insufficient both in quantity and quality for European troops 
or passing vessels. But the decisive factor was that of disease. 
Immediate!}- after the occupation began, fevers and other ills 
attacked the force of occupation with such virulence that in a short 
time only a small number of marines remained fit for active duty. 
In November, 1835, Socotra was evacuated by the British force, 
which returned to "Bombay, each of the transports having the 
character of a hospital ship/ 1 _ 

This practicalh' ended the serious consideration of Socotra as a 
major base of operations in the development of steam transit. 
The island was mentioned for several years as being capable of 
development, but in the meantime better posts had been found. 

IS c f Viuhison, Collection of Treaties , Engagements and Sunnuds Relating 
to India and Seiejsbourine, Countries, VII, 1S9. The text of the Agreement 1* 
given on page i</«. See the Asiatic Journal, XVI, N.S., Pt. II, 10, containing an 
item from the tnJ$a t July* 1 ^ 34 *» 

u ‘ Aitohistm, $/*. W/., VII, iKy. _. - 

" u This action Iveamc the subject of a good deal of controversy within a few 
years, it being insisted in some quarters that Haines had not exhausted peace u 
measures when the armed occupation was determined upon. Haines gives his own 
version in a « Memoir of the South and East Coast of Arabia,” m the Journal of 
the Royal Geos'rafhical Society of London, XV, ,04.-160. See Anahc Journal, 

XV ”’ ii/iwii'xx, N.S., Pt- II, 9 0, an account based on an too> in the 
Bombay Courier of 2 Nov., 185 s. Aitchison says (of. at., VII, 189) that the troops 
were withdrawn because of the failure of the negotiations for the purchase of the 
island. There appears to be little doubt, however that the occupation would have 
been permanent, as was that of Alien a few years later, had the island offered the 
proper facilities for steam vessels. 



190 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


Socotra was largely ignored thereafter until late in the century, 
when the possibility of the seizure and fortification of the island 
by a European enemy became so great that the island could no 
longer be safely left alone. In 1876, following British overtures, 
the then Sultan bound himself and his heirs never to cede or lease 
the island to any but the British, and in 1886 it was declared 
under protection, “ largely owing to the piratical tendencies of 
its inhabitants.” 22 

While Socotra was being surveyed, the Persian Gulf was re¬ 
examined. The first survey had been commenced in r 8 20 under 
Capt. Guy in the Discovery and Capt. Brucks in the Psyche. 
Capt. Guy soon retired, but the survey under Brucks and others 
lasted almost ten years. 23 The Euphrates Expedition and the 
possibility of opening a line of communications between India 
and England through Mesopotamia gave new point to the inspec¬ 
tion of the Gulf and the Shaat-el-Arab. At the same time, the 
Maidive Islands, a numerous group extending between 7 0 North 
Latitude and i° South Latitude were scientifically examined by 
Capt. Robert Moresby and his subordinates. 24 Also the Kuria 
Muria group were surveyed and charted. Likewise attempts 
were made at the behest of the Supreme Government at Calcutta 
to find a navigable channel between Ceylon and the Indian main¬ 
land, but this was without success. A passage had to be blasted 
through Adam’s Bridge, the natural barrier reef, years later. 20 

In 1837 and 1838, Lieut. Carless of the Indian Navy surveyed 
Kurrachee and much of the adjacent coast, a work which was im¬ 
mediately of practical value in connection with British operations 
against Persia. 20 Simultaneously, land parties, detached for 
special service from the Navy, were engaged in spying out the 
interior of Turkish Arabia and southern Persia. The Arab tribes 
inhabiting these maritime districts had long before become ob¬ 
jects of concern to the Indian Government through their plun- 

22 Aitchison, of. cit., VII, 1895 Gardiner in The Oxford Survey of the British 
Empire, II, 335. It is quite probable that the protectorate was declared, not so 
much because of piracy, which had largely been stamped out long before, as because 
of the rapidly developing German habit of appropriating such eastern lands and 
islands as were not already under European control. Socotra is still nominally 
ruled by an Arab Sultan. 

23 Markham, of. cit ., pp. 12—13. 

24 Lieuts. Young and Christopher, “ Memoir on the Inhabitants of the Mai dive 
Islands,” in the Journal of the Bombay Geographical Society, I, 54 ff. 

25 Markham, op. cit., pp. 1 6 —x 8 3 Pari. Pap., 1862, No. 2 66 u Report of the 
Select Committee appointed to inquire into . . . the practicability of Shortening 
the Voyage to Her Majesty’s Possessions in Madras, Bengal, and Burmah, by 
facilitating the Passage through the Obstruction known as Adam’s Bridge, and 
thereby avoiding the Circumnavigation of Ceylon.” 

26 Markham, op. cit., pp. 20-22. 



PAVING THE WAY TO INDIA 191 

dcring propensities, and as far as naval strength was concerned 
their power had already been broken. These land surveys had as 
their immediate objects the gathering of both geographical and 
political information, while commercial possibilities always came 
in for careful investigation." 7 

While British Indian surveys were in progress during the 
thirties, the western part of the Arabian peninsula was being sub¬ 
jected by the troops of the Pasha of Egypt, Mehemet Ali. This 
was the first step in that plan of aggrandizement which was to 
bring him into open conflict with his liege, the Sultan, and to 
provoke a dangerous European crisis at the end of the decade.' 28 
Fear of Egyptian prowess was so general throughout Arabia 
during these years that it is probable that Englishmen, represent¬ 
ing a country reputed to be opposed to the schemes of Mehemet 
Ali, were suffered to pass in safety through parts of western Asia 
which would normally have been closed to them. At the same 
time, it would be difficult to overestimate the hazards incurred 
by those intrepid officers, who, singly or in pairs, penetrated into 
practically every part of western Asia within the span of a few 
years and gave the world the first definite information of the 
geography and inhabitants of these regions." 0 The objects of 
these exploits were ostensibly scientific; yet the importance at¬ 
tached to such missions by the Indian and British Governments 
and the expense and labor involved in carrying them out throws 
much light on their ulterior purposes. 

Several of the surveys on the mainland carried on under the 
auspices of the Indian Navy have already been alluded to. 80 
Messrs. Elliott and Bowater were engaged in exploring the Tigris 
River until the tragic death of the latter near Mosul in 1830. 
Elliott was then presently attached to the Mesopotamian survey 
under Lieut. I lenry Ormsby, and the investigation of the lower 
Tigris was continued for some time. 31 The Euphrates Expedition 
under Col. Chesney and his successor, Lieut. H. Blosse Lynch, 


27 The account of the many negotiations with Arab tribes is perhaps given best 
in Aitdmon, A Collection of Treaties, Engagements and Sunnuds, It is not difficult 
to trace the British occupation of Egypt and the partial partition o£ Persia and 
Syria to the growth of the same interests which first prompted maritime and land 
surveys and the extension of the pax Britan nica in the regions touched by the 
Arabian Sea. 

2H Asiatic Journal , XXII, N.8., Pt, II, 22. 

1 ). ( 5 , Hogarth, The Penetration of Arabia > pp. 104 ffi; G. F. Sadlier, 
Diary of a Journey across Arabia (Bombay, 1866). 
m See above, pp, 151, 181-182* 

« Note Accompanying a Survey of the Tigris between Ctesiphon and Mosul” 
in the Journal of the Royal Geog „ Sac, of London , IX, 441 ff. 



192 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

gave occupation to several members of the Indian Navy. - *" Mean¬ 
while, Lieut. James Wellsted investigated the interior of Arabia 
from the coast of Hadramaut to Palestine, studying the habits of 
different Arab groups and carrying to them the intimations of 
British power. 33 

But these ventures were not confined to the countries of western 
Asia nor exclusively to members of the Bombay Marine or Indian 
Navy. Interest in the countries immediately beyond the “ gates ” 
of India, stimulated by Russian moves in that direction, led to 
investigations there. Lieut. John Wood, I.N., devoted the 
greater part of two years to the penetration of the wild and un¬ 
known mountain region to the north of India, the only written 
account of which was ascribed to the Venetian traveller and mer¬ 
chant of the thirteenth century, Marco Polo. 31 Lieut. Arthur 
Conolly, who was attached to the Company’s military forces 
rather than to the Navy, pushed through the passes leading from 
India into Afghanistan and Persia, pursuing his adventurous 
travels even into the confines of Russia. 33 That he emerged 
unscathed seems almost miraculous in view of the enormous 
hazards encountered. His work was materially supplemented by 
the dauntless Sir Alexander Burnes in Afghanistan at a critical 
moment in the relations between that wild frontier state and the 
Indian Government. 30 Burnes was one of the early victims of 
the hostilities which broke out soon after the completion of his 
work and which he had done everything in his power to avert. 
Still others, acting under orders or as private adventurers, dis¬ 
appeared into the mountains and deserts and for months or years 
were lost to view. Indeed, some of them never emerged again, 
and the manner of their fate was only to be guessed by the rumors 
which, sometimes years afterward, drifted across the mountain 
barriers into Indian frontier settlements. 

In this manner, the sphere of British dominion centring in 

32 Lieut. H. Blosse Lynch, “ Memoir of the River Euphrates . . in the 

Journal of the Bombay Geog. Soc., IV, 169 ff. 

33 James R. Wellsted, Travels to the City of the Caliphs, along the Shores of 
the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean ... (a vols., London, 1840) j Pari. Pap., 
1837, No. 5 39> PP* 3 a 35- 

34 ILieut. John Wood, A Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Source of the 
River Oxus . . . in the Years 1836, 1837 and 1838 (London, 1841). 

35 Lieut. Arthor Conolly, Journey to the North of India, through Russia, Persia 
and Afghanistan . (2d ed., rev., 2 vols., London, 1838). 

36 Sir Alexander Burnes, Cabool: being a Personal Narrative of a Journey to 
and Residence in that City, in the Years 1836, 1837 and 1838 . . . (London, 1842). 
See also his Travels in Bokhara . . . and Narrative of a Voyage on the Indus from 
the Sea to Lahore ... in the years 1831, 1832 and 1833 (London, 1834)5 J. W. 
Kaye, Lives of Indian Officers, Illustrative of the History of the Civil ami Military 
Services of India (2 vols., London, 1867), II, 7 ff.j Asiatic Journal, XXV, N.S., 
Pt. II, 23. 



PAVING THE WAY TO INDIA 193 

India insidiously widened its scope and took cognizance of political 
and geographical relationships that communications and commer¬ 
cial interests jnight be protected and extended. These missions 
of British officers seldom deceived those among whom they were 
made. T. hat long travels should be undertaken for purely scien¬ 
tific reasons in countries difficult of access and exceedingly dan¬ 
gerous to traverse was inconceivable to the cynical oriental, not so 
much because his conception of science was so meagre as because 
his knowledge of human nature w r as so profound. Proffers of 
commercial advantages were little more convincing, if more 
reasonable; for trade on a considerable scale was obviously out 
of the question where roads did not exist or where there was little 
to exchange. Besides, did not all British travellers bring official 
documents sealed with the marks of Government, and did not 
that argue an official — probably a political — interest in the work 
of such agents? It is not to be wondered at that several of those 
who ventured beyond the confines of the British raj were treated 
as spies and were killed or plundered or enslaved or imprisoned. 
The characteristic attitude of the peoples of western Asia toward 
the English is well illustrated by the words of an old Arab sheik, 
who frankly said to one of the members of Chesney’s Euphrates 
Expedition, “ The English are like ants: if one finds a bit of meat, 
a hundred follow.” n 

The series of surveys carried on by men belonging to the Naval, 
Military, and Civil Services in India ended rather abruptly in 
r 838 due to an unusual combination of fortuitous circumstances. 
The military and civil sections of the Indian Government were 
suddenly compelled to devote their whole energies to a series of 
eastern wars which lasted for a considerable period. However, 
the termination of the surveys came too late seriously to injure 
their practical benefits. Already they had been so successful in 
demonstrating the practicability of steam lines between Indian 
ports and Suez that by 1838 the line was in fairly regular use. 38 

Steam lines and changes in eastern conditions led the Court of 
Directors in 1838 to adopt a new policy for the whole of the 
Indian Navy. The Service was to be placed on the basis of steam 
rather than sails, and to be devoted primarily to the transporta¬ 
tion of mails and passengers on the line to Europe. 30 To make 
this change effective, the Superintendent of the Indian Navy was 
instructed to publish an Order, which read in part as follows: 

37 W. F, Ainsworth, Narrative of the Euphrates Expedition, II, *97. 

3H Low, op. a/ n II, 50-52. 

39 Part . Pap*, 1852-1853, No. 627, p. 146* 



194 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


The conveyance of mails for packet service being provided 
for, the remaining purposes which the Indian Navy would 
be required for are, against an enemy in case of war, for the 
transport of troops, stores, and treasure, the protection of 
the trade from piracy, and for surveying; and . . . we 
have no doubt that all these objects would be attained more 
effectually by steam than by sailing vessels, [ and ] it is our 
intention to effect the arrangement with the least possible 
delay. . . 40 

An entire new set of regulations was issued at the same time, 
completely transforming the old Navy into a mixed Service and 
destroying at one blow a host of dearly cherished traditions.' 11 
Almost simultaneously the office of Marine Surveyor-General 
was abolished and a new Steam Department created under the 
Bombay Government. It was evident at once that in the Indian 
Navy the emphasis was to be placed thereafter on transporting 
mails and passengers rather than in conducting scientific surveys 
or in policing the southern shores of Asia, although these remained 
contingent duties. There can be little doubt that these alterations 
in the Navy were amply justified by the importance to which 
steam navigation had risen, but they were bitterly opposed by 
almost the entire force of officers and enlisted men who felt them¬ 
selves disgraced and insulted by the nature of their new duties. 43 
Many proud spirits preferred to withdraw from the Service rather 
than to endure what they considered dishonor. Most of the abler 
officers remained, however, and although they found their new 
work in many respects distasteful, they did it so effectively that 
their reputations suffered not at all. 

One feature of the change was the retirement of Sir Charles 
Malcolm, brother of the erstwhile Governor of Bombay, from 
his post as Superintendent of the Indian Navy. During his ten 
years of service, Sir Charles had devoted his energies mainly to 
the realization of the program of steam communication formu- _ 
lated by his influential brother, and in retiring he was able to 
consider his cherished task largely accomplished. 43 His successor, 
Capt. Robert Oliver, was a strict utilitarian and without regard 
for many of the enterprises performed by the Navy which, how- 

40 Low, of, cit, } II, 59. 

41 In 1862 the Indian Navy ceased entirely to exist as a separate organization. 

42 Douglas, GUmfses of Old Bombay and Western India , p. 140; Asiatic Journal 
XXVII, N.S., Pt. II, 320. 

43 It was a fortunate coincidence that the British Admiral in the Mediterranean 
during those years was another brother, Sir Pulteney Malcolm, whose hearty co¬ 
operation did much to secure the establishment of a steam link between Alexandria 
and Malta, thereby making effective the steam line to Suez. 



PAVING THE WAY TO INDIA 195 

ever glorious or scientific, had been exceedingly costly. His 
policy, there tore, was to cut down expenses and to put the Navy, 
as far as possible, on a paying basis. This was another bitter pill 
to the personnel of the Service, who felt that they were being 
compelled to turn merchant. Plans for materially reducing the 
personnel and even for demoting some of the officers were pre¬ 
vented by the outbreak of hostilities in several quarters about the 
same time, and such measures as looked toward the emasculation 
of the Navy were postponed.*' 1 

The changes made at Bombay in 1838 interrupted little pros¬ 
pecting work of importance, for the purposes of the several 
sun eys both on sea and land had already largely been accom¬ 
plished. Western Asia was no longer a closed book, a region of 
conjecture, known only through the writings of the ancients. 
Within a decade a gap of some fifteen hundred years had been 
bridged by the enterprise and intrepidity of a handful of men. 
The results ol this work are not easily estimated. It is certain, 
however, that the surveys largely contributed to the other factors 
operating at the same time — improved means of communication 
and transportation, rapid growth of European populations, in¬ 
creasing commercial needs — to bring those countries constituting 
the “ corridor ” to India definitely into European politics. No 
longer might temperamental Mohammedan peoples plunder each 
other or lightly engage in civil dissension without exciting the ap¬ 
prehension and perhaps provoking the intervention of European 
states, each jealous lest the other thereby derive some advantage." 
Thenceforward, western Asia was to be the scene of such conten¬ 
tion among Britain, France, and Russia that their foreign policies 
must be studied largely in terms of eastern interests. At the 
beginning of the nineteenth century, Turkey and Persia were 
generally looked upon and treated as independent powers of some 
importance. By 1840, they had practically become the wards of 
the great powers of Europe and retained their nominal indepen¬ 
dence, as they do still, largely because of European rivalries. 

Before the Red Sea line of communications with Europe could 
be considered as established, as numerous trials had shown, a safe 
and convenient way station was required between Suez and India 
in which steam vessels might refuel, make minor repairs and find 
a haven in all cases of emergency. Socotra had at one time been 

44 Markham, op, <*;/., pp. 23, 24, passim. The surveys interrupted in 1838 
were resumed at intervals later. Since the creation of the Marine Survey Depart¬ 
ment of’the Government of India in 1875 they have been practically continuous. 

45 Aitchitfon, op, VII, 73““?5> *46“*63* Pad, Pap,, 1839, No. 268, pp. 
9h 9 ** 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


196 

looked upon as the logical base for lines running either to Bombay 
or to Calcutta, but the brief occupation in 1835 had shown the 
island to be lacking in several essentials. The Island of Pcrim, at 
the Straits of Babelmandeb in the mouth of the Red Sea, had been 
found at the beginning of the century too barren and disease- 
ridden to be of the slightest use in connection with the navigation 
of the Red Sea. 40 The Maldives and Laccadives had been found 
deficient in harbor facilities, while the thousands of coral reefs in 
both groups of islands effectually discouraged navigation in their 
vicinity. The ports of Mocha and Jedda in the Red Sea, while 
capable of development, were not well situated for intermediate 
supply stations, and commercial opportunities alone did not war¬ 
rant the expenditures which would be necessary for harbor de¬ 
velopment in either case, even if political complications could be 
avoided. 

Aden was the sole remaining port along the otherwise in¬ 
hospitable coast of Arabia which appeared to give promise of 
suitable accommodations for a growing steam service. As early 
as 1829 the Bombay Government had secured permission from 
the local Sultan to land coal on an island in the harbor of Aden 
for the first voyage of the Hugh Lindsay. Native labor was hard 
to obtain, however, and when the steamer had arrived on her first 
trip it required six days to place on board 180 tons of coal. 
Largely for this reason, Aden was avoided for several years there¬ 
after, although the Sultan gave evidence of being well disposed 
toward the English, hoping to secure their assistance against some 
of his Arab enemies. Commander S. B. Haines, who visited 
Aden in 1835 in connection with one of his surveys, was struck 
with the natural advantages of the place, its commodious, well- 
protected harbor, the ease with which it could be fortified, the 
quantity and excellence of the fresh water supply, as well as the 
cordiality of the native population.' 17 These matters he brought 
to the attention of the Bombay Government upon his return to 
India, and his report went far toward directing attention to Aden 
as perhaps the most promising location for a steam supply base. 

A timely “incident,” which occurred in 1837, seemed to offer 
an unusual opportunity for the acquisition of Aden as a supply 
base upon favorable terms. In January of that year, an Indian 

46 Gardiner, in the Oxford Survey of the British Empire^ II, 324-345. British 
authorities did not consider it worth while to extend any formal control over the 
island, in fact, until 1852, when, with a concession for the construction of a Suez 
Canal in French hands, it was considered wise to annex the island. 

47 Low, of . clt . 3 II, XI6. An excellent account of the natural advantages of 
Aden is one by Prof. J. Stanley Gardiner, in The Oxford Survey of the British 
Empire , II, 331-334. Cf. The Indian Year Book: a Statistical and Historical 
Annual of the Indian Empire (London, 1924), pp. 128, 129. 



PAVING THE WAY TO INDIA 197 

trading vessel named the Dorm Domlut, belonging to the Nawab 
of Madras and sailing under English colors, went aground in the 
night time near Aden. The vessel carried a rich cargo, valued at 
more than £20,ooo. 48 On the following day, parties of desert 
Bedouins from Aden came on board the vessel, insulted and mis¬ 
treated the passengers, several of whom were women, and plun¬ 
dered the vessel of every bit of property which could be removed. 
The passengers, being without boats, were left to shift for them¬ 
selves. After a day or so, some of them contrived to build a raft 
upon which they reached the shore, only to be further mistreated 
and stripped of all clothing. A few of the passengers who had 
an interest in the vessel presently managed to obtain passage in 
another Indian trader to Mocha, where they reported the affair 
to the Company’s native agent. He, however, made light of the 
affair, and, handing out a few small sums as alms, dismissed the 
case. However, two vessels of the Indian Navy chanced pres¬ 
ently to put in at Mocha, and the agent of the Nawab of Madras, 
one of the survivors of the wreck, reported the whole affair to 
the officers of these vessels. Thus the matter was shortly trans¬ 
mitted to Bombay. 

Such occurrences as this were not so rare in Arabian waters as 
to cause particular comment among Government officials in India. 
A great many similar cases were on record, though because of the 
activity of the Indian Navy they had been growing less and less 
frequent. Since the Bombay Government had long before as¬ 
sumed a moral jurisdiction in such cases, and especially since the 
plundered vessel had sailed under English colors, the line of 
action pursued by the authorities was that prescribed by numerous 
precedents, and for the time being no unusual importance was 
attached to the case. 

After a preliminary investigation of the affair, Capt. Haines, 
who had lately been engaged in surveying in Arabian waters, was 
despatched to Aden to pursue the matter and to demand an ex¬ 
planation from the Sultan of the Abdalee Arabs, in whose domain 
the offense was committed. Capt. Haines made a careful exam¬ 
ination of the situation and made a report of more than passing 
interest. In it he stated that there was every reason to believe 
that the Dorta Dowlut had come to grief as a result of a conspiracy 
between the officers of the vessel and the Sultan of Lahej, chief 
of the Abdalees, whereby the ship had purposely been wrecked 
in the neighborhood of Aden, the conspirators sharing in the sale 

4H Pari. Pap.f 1839, ^°* 2< S8> “ Correspondence Relating to Aden,” pp. 5-7. 
The name of the wrecked vessel is given in some accounts as the Derm Do<wlet. 
Low (II, it 6 ) says the vessel belonged to a niece of the Nawab of the Carnatic 
(Madras). 



198 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

of the plunder. It developed that those who removed the cargo 
from the stranded vessel were in the employ of the Sultan, and 
the Sultan’s son had been among them. Capt. Haines found 
much of the plunder still exposed for sale by the agent of the 
Sultan in the markets of Aden. The Sultan, being asked for an 
explanation, sent word from his capital at Lahej, a few miles 
inland, that he knew nothing of the matter and assumed no 
responsibility. This was the situation laid before the Bombay 
Government in July, 1837. 

There is nothing to suggest that until this time the Indian 
authorities had considered the possibility of using the plunder of 
the Doria Dowlut as a means of advancing British interests. 
However, at a time when one of the principal topics of interest 
in all of the Indian Presidencies was the establishment of an 
adequate steam communication with the home country, and at a 
moment when two new steamers, lately arrived from England, 
were actually being groomed for the Suez line with no adequate 
way station yet in view, the suggestion could scarcely be avoided 
that perhaps the time was opportune for the acquisition of a naval 
and supply base at Aden, which was the most advantageous loca¬ 
tion yet discovered between Suez and Bombay for such a purpose. 
The first hint that any action of unusual character might be taken 
is contained in a memorandum by the Secretary of the Bombay 
Government, dated August 7, 1837. It says: 

In consequence of the very serious outrage committed 
against the people and passengers on board the Dona Dowlut, 
a ship belonging, it is said, to the Nawab of the Carnatic, and 
sailing under British colours, by the Sultan of Aden, it will 
probably be requisite for this Government to take strong 
measures for exacting reparation. 49 

The plan as further matured is contained in a minute of the 
Governor of Bombay, Sir Robert Grant, dated September 23. 
This statement, which represented the views of all those con¬ 
nected with the Bombay Government and which was presently 
approved by both the Supreme Indian Government and the Court 
of Directors in London, ran, in part, as follows: 

The establishment of a monthly communication by steam 
with the Red Sea, and the formation of a flotilla of armed 
steamers, renders it absolutely necessary that we should have 
a station of our own on the coast of Arabia, as we have in the 

49 Park Pap 1839, No. 268, p. 10. 



PAVING THE WAY TO INDIA 199 

Persian Gulf; and the insult which has been offered to the 
British flag by the Sultan of Aden, has led me to inquiries 
which leave no doubt on my mind that we should take pos¬ 
session of the port of Aden. 

I shall make a short summary of the advantages which 
Aden offers as a depot for coals, and as a naval and commer¬ 
cial station. 

Cape Aden is a high rocky promontory, almost an island, 
the communication with the main [land] being only by a nar¬ 
row strip of land, which is nearly covered at high-water 
spring-tides, and which a single work and a few men could 
maintain against any attack. The village of Aden is situated 
on the eastern shore, and is surrounded by an amphitheatre of 
lofty mountains, open to attack from the sea at only one spot, 
on which a small fort might be required. Opposite to, and 
commanding, the town of Aden is an island, 1,200 yards 
long by 700 broad, and 4.00 feet high, upon which barracks 
could be built for a detachment of troops. . . The water of 
Aden is good, and the climate healthy. 

The harbour of Aden is excellent, and ruins of great ex¬ 
tent prove that it was once a mart of great importance. It 
might again, under good management, be made the port of 
export of coffee, gums and spices of Arabia, and the channel 
through which the produce of England and India might be 
spread through the rich provinces of Yemen and Hadhar- 
el-mout. The trade with the African coast would also be 
thrown into the Aden market. 

As a coal depot, no place on the coast is so advantageous; 
it divides the distance between Bombay and Suez, and 
steamers may run into Back Bay during the night and unload 
at all seasons in perfect security. 80 

Before the will of the Court of Directors on the matter of 
using coercion in obtaining a foothold at Aden had reached India, 
the Supreme Government authorized the Government of Bombay 
to proceed with measures designed, first, to secure reparation for 
the plunder of the Doria Dowlut , and in the second place, to 
secure the harbor and town of Aden, or at least a coaling base, by 

50 Ibid., pp. 18, u). The Supreme Government wrote that it was of the opinion 
u that satisfaction should, in the first instance, be demanded of the Sultan of Aden 
for this outrage. If it be granted, some amicable arrangement may be made with 
him for the occupation of this port as a depot for coals, and harbour for shelter. 
If it be refused, the further measures may be considered.” It is pretty evident that 
by October, 1S37, Indian authorities were determined upon securing Aden in one 
way or another. 



200 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

purchase. Capt. Haines was selected for this important mission 
as the man best acquainted with the situation both by reason of his 
knowledge of the site of Aden and of the susceptibilities of the 
individuals with whom he would have to deal. 

Capt. Haines was despatched in the sloop-of-war Coote at the 
end of the year 1837. Upon arriving at Aden, a formal demand 
was made for what remained of the property of the Doria Dowlut 
and money compensation for that portion which had been sold. 
After some delay, these demands were complied with. Such 
articles as still remained in the markets were given up, and Sultan 
M. Houssain ben Fudthel very reluctantly gave his bond for 
4191 dollars more, the estimated value of the remainder of the 
cargo. 61 His willingness thus to make amends came from two 
sources, the certainty that his coast would be blockaded by the 
English should he not comply, and his fear of the Egyptian troops 
of Mehemet Ali, who, under Ibrahim Pasha, had already overrun 
and conquered a large part of Arabia and were at this time not 
far from Aden. 52 

The preliminary matter satisfactorily ended, Haines sent pres¬ 
ents, accompanied by complimentary notes, to the Sultan and 
some of his relatives, by way of approaching the more important 
proposition. The formal statement of the willingness of the 
Government of India to purchase Aden and the points imme¬ 
diately about it was delivered on January 11, 1838, and occasioned 
quite a sensation among the Abdalee chiefs. The first reaction 
to the proposal was not unfavorable, and a number of amicable 
discussions ensued, both orally and by correspondence. The chief 
fear of the old Sultan appeared to be that, once he had given up 
his sole port and concluded the negotiation to the satisfaction of 
the English, he would thereafter be ignored and left at the mercy 
of his Arab neighbors. Capt. Haines attempted to quiet his mis¬ 
givings by presenting to him the draft of a treaty such as would, 
in all likelihood, be ratified by the Indian Government. This 
document provided that, in return for a full cession of Aden, the 
Sultan would be paid a sum to be agreed upon, and would be 
permitted to reside in Aden, to trade through the port in his own 
vessels duty free, that he and his family would be treated as 

51 Pari. Pap., No. 268, pp. 20, 27, 36; Low, op. cit., II, 116, 1175 Aitchison, 
of. ch., VII, 122. The original demand was for the payment of 12,000 dollars Or 
its equivalent in goods. The “ dollar ” referred to was the rial or German crown, 
with a value of about 15 shillings. 

62 Asiatic Journal, XXVI, N.S., Pt. II, 39, 835 ibid., XXIX, N.S., Pt. II, 35; 
Low, of. tit., II, xi 7. The Egyptian situation also throws some light on the prompt 
action of the Indian authorities, who foresaw complications with Egypt, and possibly 
with Turkey, should Aden be taken by Ibrahim Pasha before the English had 
established a claim. See John Hall, England and the Orleans Monarchy, pp. 232-233, 



PAVING THE WAY TO INDIA 


201 


became their stations, and that the Mohammedan faith would be 
considered on a parity with Christianity. 53 The Sultan asked that 
he also be taken under British protection, by which he doubtless 
anticipated an opportunity to prey on his neighbors with impunity, 
but Haines pointed out that any such engagements would be made 
separately and only after the Sultan had agreed to the transfer 
of Aden. 

Being threatened on the one side by Egyptian forces together 
with some of the neighboring Arab tribes, and on the other 
pressed for an early settlement by Capt. Haines, the Sultan, 
whose will and determination were not of the strongest, finally 
agreed to the transfer. The documents which were given to this 
end, however, in keeping with Arab character and the doubts and 
fears of the Sultan, were somewhat vague and irregular, probably 
designed to admit of loose interpretation should the Sultan choose 
to alter his decision later. The formal transfer of Aden rested 
on two papers, dated January 22, 1838. 51 The first of these was 
a letter, bearing the Sultan’s seal, but lacking some of the essen¬ 
tials of a conclusive agreement. This letter, about which there 
has been much controversy, ran thus: 

The Sultan of Aden to Captain Haines. . . You wrote 
on the subject of Aden; my support and dependence is upon 
it. My neighbours from east, north, and west obtain money 
from me, and my dependence for the same is from Aden. 

Between us a conversation passed, and we arranged the 
final answer for two months, or in March. I promised it in 
two months; and you in the interim go to Bombay and in¬ 
form your Government, and I will have a council of my 
chiefs and explain to them. When we have both completed 
it, and you return in March, you can then make houses or 
forts or do what you like; the town will then be yours; but 
consider the money I have to give my neighbors from it, so 
that when the town is yours, you must answer them all. 

If when you are in the town, people come to fight you, 
either by sea or land, I am not answerable, you must answer 
and please all. All this which I have written depends upon 
you. When the town is yours, give me half the custom 
duties for food. After your return in March, we will meet 

53 Part. Pap., 1839, No. 26S, pp. 23—25, 29. 

54 IbM.y pp. 29, 30; Aitchison, op. cit VII, 122. The date as given by Low 
(op. cit.y II, 117), 23 Jan., is incorrect, having been taken from a collection of 
treaties (the Bombay Book of Treaties , edited by Thomas Hughes, pp. 282-283), 
in which the date is erroneously given. See Asiatic Journal , XXIX, N.S., Pt. II, 35 $ 
XXVI, N.S., Pt. II, 39. 



202 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

and arrange; if you will not give me half the duties, give 
me pay, either by the month or year, as you please; but let 
my name be respected, and my orders extend over my own 
people, and yours over yours, "i ou return in March and 
settle it. 

If you do not come between these months, and the lurks 
come and take the whole country by strength from me, or 
any other people, you must not blame me. In March I look 
only for you, for no other gentleman, but for you, Com¬ 
mander Haines. 55 

This letter, being sealed, might have been accepted as suffi¬ 
ciently binding and inclusive, even though the terms of transfer 
were not specified definitely. However, it was accompanied by 
an explanatory note, which not only cast much light on one or two 
clauses in the transfer, but appeared to make the deed unaccept¬ 
able. This note was dictated to Haines’ interpreter, and said, 
in part: 

You swear by the Bible, the house of the Sultan M. 
Houssein and his descendants shall be theirs, and that my 
orders shall extend over my people, and that my houses, and 
the guns I have in Aden, are to be mine; every other thing 
to belong to the English. My orders are to be over my 
people, and the Jews, and the Arabs; and whatever orders 
I give them they must obey, and my other subjects to be 
mine, but Aden to belong to the British. 50 

Capt. Haines instantly replied that it was inconceivable that 
two regimes might exist in Aden side by side, and he pointed out 
that only British authority might prevail once the transfer became 
effective. He regretted that the sealed letter did not answer the 
requirements of a deed. “ You say you will transfer Aden to the 
British,” he wrote, “ and that we may commence building forts, 
houses, etc., and do as we think proper; but such an inconsistent 
course the Government would not carry into effect. They must 
have the transfer, and money for the same arranged, and con¬ 
cluded under your seal.” 57 

55 This translation is the one prepared by Haines and forwarded to the Bombay 
Government with the original. 

56 Pari. Pap., 1839, No. 268, p. 30. 

57 Ibid.) p. 30. Victor Fontanier, French agent in the Nearer East during 
these years, quotes Maj. Felix, private secretary of Sir Robert Grant, as saying 
that he (the Governor of Bombay) recommended that British motives in attempting 
to secure Aden be not discussed, a since it might cause jealousy among the French.” 
— Voyage dam PInde 3 II, 168. 



PAVING THE WAT TO INDIA 


203 


Again pressed to name his terms for the sale of Aden, the 
Sultan tentatively proposed through the interpreter that an an¬ 
nual subsidy of 50,000 dollars be paid him. Haines replied that 
this amount was out of the question, the whole of the customs of 
Aden being not more than 6000 or fooo dollars per year. The 
Sultan finally sent word through his son that he was willing to 
conclude the agreement for an annual stipend of 8700 dollars, 
an amount quite within the range of Haines’ power to offer. 
Plans were then made for the drawing up of the final documents 
on January 28 in the town of Aden. On the morning of that 
day, Capt. Haines was about to go ashore from the Coote when 
he was warned from the shore by his interpreter not to land, as 
treachery was afoot. It appeared presently that the Sultan, in¬ 
fluenced by some of his relatives, had determined to seize Haines, 
regain possession of both the sealed letter and the bond of resti¬ 
tution for the Daria Do’xlut, and break off relations with the 
English altogether. Having obtained sufficient proofs of the 
plot, Haines sent a final warning to the Sultan, and sailed for 
Bombay.‘' s 

With his arrival in India, the whole question of the justifica¬ 
tion and the expediency of occupying Aden, by force, if necessary, 
had to be taken up anew. In the months which had intervened 
since Haines was sent to obtain peaceful possession of the base at 
Aden, sentiment in official circles had fast been growing in favor 
of securing it by any means which could be at all explained, this 
being deemed by some “ the only moment when such a step is 
likely to be practicable for centuries,” and the possession of 
which could not but “ be attended with incalculable benefit.” 59 
Sir Robert Grant was of this opinion. He had favored direct 
action in the first instance, but had been overruled by the Supreme 
Government. Upon receiving Haines’ report, he wrote: 

While ... I am for regarding this intended outbreak as 
in itself a matter of small consequence, there is one view in 
which it can hardly be overrated; in fact, I cannot but hail it 
as a most happy incident. It settles conclusively the necessity 
of our holding the port and harbour of Aden in our own 
hands, if we mean to avail ourselves of the one as a depot for 
our coals, and of the other as a shelter for our vessels, 
whether of war, or transit. 60 

58 Pari. Pap., 1S39, No. 268, pp. 26-28, 32-37. 

50 Ibid., p. 37, quoted from a Minute by the Governor of Bombay. 

®° Ibid., p. 40. There is an excellent account of the strategic value of Aden in 
the Asiatic Journal, XXVIII, N.S., Pt. I, 317—321. 



204 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


The Supreme Government was also inclined to look upon the 
moment as opportune. To the case created by the looting of a 
merchant vessel had been added insults to a special agent of the 
Indian Government, and, finally, a dangerous plot against his 
person, if not his life. 61 But, happily, there were still other and 
even less questionable grounds for proceeding with the occupa¬ 
tion. Capt. Haines had secured a sealed transfer of the town 
and port of Aden to the English before quitting the place. It was 
true that Capt. Haines had thought the document to have no 
legal value, inasmuch as the consideration for the transfer was 
not stated, but the fact that an annual sum of 8700 dollars had 
been verbally agreed upon subsequently was, of necessity, con¬ 
sidered as legally completing the transfer. 02 

Little time was lost in embarking upon a new plan of action. 
Pending the receipt of permission from the Home Government 
to capture Aden by force, Capt. Haines was again despatched to 
Aden in the Coote with instructions to renew peaceful negotia¬ 
tions for the completion of the transfer of Aden. 03 Meanwhile, 
naval and military forces were to be collected at Bombay ready 
to be sent to Aden at the earliest possible moment, in case of the 
failure of the new overtures. Capt. Haines arrived again at 
Aden at the first of November, 1838, armed with the draft of a 
treaty to be presented to the Sultan, M. Houssain. If he had 
expected to be received more cordially after his absence, he was 
very quickly undeceived. He was ridiculed by the Arabs of Aden 
for bringing only one small vessel of war, and was sent insulting 
and threatening letters by the old Sultan and his son, the latter 
now acting practically as regent. The Sultan refused to admit 
that he had ever given any formal bond for the transfer of 
Aden. 01 Moreover, he even went so far as to refuse to recognize 
Haines as an authorized agent of the Indian Government. 

While this temporizing was still in progress, the Coote was 
suddenly denied the privilege of receiving fuel and water from 
the shore. Believing that show of patience further would be a 

81 These were matters of serious concern to the Indian Government, not merely 
because they gave new grounds for offensive action, but because of the necessity of 
keeping British prestige always at a high pitch in the East for safety’s sake. 

. 82 Cf. Fontanier, of. cit., II, 167, 168. Fontanier makes it appear that Mehemet 

Ali had a hand in the settlement. 

88 The Bombay Government wrote to Haines in December, “ The Governor in 
Council considers the importance of obtaining a footing at Aden peaceably, or at all 
events without loss of life, to be incalculably great in regard to the feeling with 
which its after occupation by the British Government would be viewed, indepen¬ 
dently of all other weighty considerations, and that this object should never be lost 
sight of.” Pari. Pap., 1839, No. 268, p. 61. Comment on so frank a statement 
seems superfluous. 

64 Pari. Paf. } 1839, No. 268, p. 67, 



PAVING THE WAY TO INDIA k£ 205 

Igfft 

waste of time, Haines proceeded to blockade the port qHAden, 
while at the same time sending a request to Bombay by s&wft'' 
the new steamers on the Suez line, asking that the expeditionary 
force be sent for the forcible seizure of the place. From the 
beginning of the blockade, communication was kept up in some¬ 
what desultory fashion between the Abdalee chiefs and Capt. 
Haines, but with relations constantly becoming worse. On 
November 20 a party of Bedouins fired on the pinnace of the 
Coots, fortunately without effect. From this time on the state 
of hostilities was hardly veiled, and it was evident that Bedouins 
were collecting in Aden in considerable numbers to withstand the 
expected attack of the English and to harass the Coote as much as 
possible."'"' A peaceful settlement was clearly out of the ques¬ 
tion now that the old Sultan was a bed-ridden invalid and his 
government had fallen into the hands of his sons and their 
friends, who, being young and irresponsible, and seeing little 
likelihood of gain from the sale of Aden to the English, desired 
nothing better than war. 

The main expeditionary force for the occupation of Aden ar¬ 
rived on January 16, 1839, consisting of two ships bearing some 
seven hundred European and native troops and a number of guns. 
Two small vessels had previously come from India, and a cap¬ 
tured Arab vessel had been made into a mortar boat. Capt. 
Haines immediately sent word of the arrival of the force to the 
Sultan, whose only reply was for a week’s respite in which to 
decide upon an answer. Since this did not warrant consideration, 
the little fleet was immediately sent into position for attack. The 
bombardment of the defenses of the town began at 9:30 A.M. 
on the same morning, January 16. A brief period of firing 
knocked to pieces the Arab forts, troops were landed, and by 
12:30 the whole peninsula was in the hands of the British. The 
Sultan, his sons, and most of the Arabs escaped to the mainland, 
and gave no more trouble for the time being. Medical assistance 
was offered to all who had suffered during the engagement, and 
Aden soon returned to its normal condition. Within a few days, 
friendly negotiations were resumed with the Sultan M. Houssain, 
who bore his losses in good spirit. On February second, a treaty 
of peace and friendship was signed between the English and the 
Abdalees, supplemented by another on the fourth at the request 
of the old Sultan. 88 A fortnight later, further to regularize the 
occupation of Aden, a new treaty of peace and friendship was 
drawn up, in which the English undertook to forget the recent 

* 5 Low, op. cit. y II, 117. 

m Park Pap.y 1839, No * p. 9 2 i Aitchison, op. tit., VII, 122. 



206 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

hostilities by engaging to pay the Sultan a yearly stipend of 6500 
dollars, and also to assume his tribute obligations to some of the 
neighboring tribes. 67 

Meanwhile, Aden was made into a regular port of call. Ar¬ 
rangements were made for the coaling of steamers, wharves were 
repaired, and the defenses of the place carefully looked to, al¬ 
though no further hostilities were anticipated. As it developed, 
however, the defensive measures were taken none too soon. In 
November, 1839, the Abdalees, having secretly planned a coup, 
made a series of very effective attacks on Aden, almost gaining 
an entrance on one or two occasions before they were decisively 
beaten off. The instalments of the Sultan’s stipend were sus¬ 
pended as a result of this, and Aden took on the appearance of a 
military base. In May and again in July, 1840, heavy attacks 
were made on the defenses of Aden. Indian reenforcements 
quickly brought out from Bombay by the new steam units of the 
Indian Navy gave material aid in these crises, however, and by 
the end of 1841 the spirit of the Arabs was so broken that no 
serious difficulties again arose. The Sultan’s annuity was again 
begun in 1844, with a year’s back pay as a reward for good be¬ 
havior. It was a number of years still before the garrisons of 
Aden could be greatly reduced with safety, though meanwhile 
the use of Aden as a base had suffered no interruption. 08 

The news of the capture of Aden was received throughout the 
British world with profound satisfaction. Neither the British 
nor the Indian Government was inclined longer to deplore the 
necessity for hostilities, and those who conducted the brief cam¬ 
paign were rewarded with gifts and honors.' 1 " Commander 
Haines was vested with entire discretionary power and made 
chief officer of the temporary administration. Within the course 
of a few months several strategic points had been added to the 
locations originally demanded from the Sultan, new fortifications 
and batteries had been erected, and Aden became not merely a 

67 Aitchison, of. cit VII, 136; Low, of. cit., II, 125, 126. 

68 Asiatic Journal, XXXI, N.S., Pt. II, 130, 131, 349 j ibid., XXXII, N.S., 
Pt. II, 322} ibid., XXXIII, N.S., Pt. II, 23, 24, no, 1 1 1, 209, 210, 306j Low, 
of. cit., I, 128-1335 Aitchison, of. cit., VII, 123-141* 

09 See Pari. Paf., 1839, No. 277, p. 190; Consul-General Campbell’s favorable 
report on the acquisition of Aden. Commander Haines, who was chiefly responsible 
for the conduct of operations, was rewarded by the Bombay Government with a 
sword of the value of 200 guineas, while Lieut. E. W, 8. Daniell, who was in charge 
of some of the shore parties, received a sword costing 100 guineas. — Asiatic Journal, 
XXXIII, N.S., Pt. II, 306. Fontanier says, however (of. cit., II, 173), that both 
Lord Palmerston and Sir John Hobhouse protested against the seizure as unwarranted 
and as a reflection on British honor, but that u no investigation was ever made.” 



PAVING THE WAY TO INDIA 


207 

way station on the new steam route to Suez, but one of the de¬ 
fensive bases of the Empire. 70 

The acquisition of Aden was one of the last steps in the definite 
establishment of the Suez route for the regular transportation of 
mails and passengers to and from India. It was also the logical 
culmination of the long series of surveys which had characterized 
the first third of the century in eastern waters. Coming at the 
moment when the Euphrates Expedition had in essential respects 
failed, the capture of Aden concentrated attention both at home 
and in India on the route through Egypt, leaving the Euphrates 
route to figure in the history of communications only as an alter¬ 
native project. The trade of the port of Aden did not develop 
to the extent which had been anticipated, but the post steadily 
increased in strategic value and importance to communication. 
With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Aden loomed up 
immediately as one of the bulwarks of the Empire, controlling 
the transit of the Red Sea, and exercising a far more potent in¬ 
fluence on imperial diplomacy than could possibly have been 
foreseen by those who brought about its capture. 71 

70 Capt. F. M. Hunter, An Account of the British Settlement of Aden in 
Arabia (London, 1877)5 Asiatic Journal^ XXXIII, N.S., Pt. II, 276, 277. At the 
opening - of the twentieth century, Aden was one of the six most heavily fortified 
positions in the British Empire. 

71 See The Indian Year Book: A Statistical and Historical Annual of the Indian 
Empire . . . (1913), (Ed. by Sir Stanley Reed), pp. 128, 129. 



CHAPTER IX 


ESTABLISHMENT OF THE OVERLAND ROUTE 

T HE YEAR 1835 was characterized in English affairs 
by a number of forward strides. At home the read¬ 
justment following the great Reform Bill had been 
largely effected without any signs of the ruin which the old Tories 
had confidently anticipated from the letting down of the bars to 
the middle class. Nothing more dangerous was to be expected 
from the Bill for the reform of the municipalities which was 
readily enacted in that year. A note of optimism pervaded all 
the gloom which could be conjured up by the adherents of the 
old order. In foreign affairs the outlook was brighter than for 
several years previously. Resentment toward France still re¬ 
mained in many quarters over the ease with which Algeria had 
been acquired regardless of the pledges given by the old Bourbon 
Government to the contrary, and the French were suspected of 
having deep designs in Greece and in the Levant. Nevertheless, 
the Orleans regime was so absorbed in making the most of the 
new industrial movement as to cause no immediate anxiety, while 
English travellers by the hundreds crossed the Channel in the 
new steam boats and revisited favorite haunts which they had not 
viewed since the July Revolution. Relations with Russia were 
less critical than they had been a few years earlier. Still, Russia 
had not been forgiven for her trickery in connection with the 
fateful Treaty of London, and she was popularly supposed to be 
making preparations for securing India whenever a convenient 
occasion might arise. 1 The English were still being viewed with 
suspicion by the Porte, in consequence of the late misfortunes in 
Greece, and Mehemet Ali was becoming a greater source of con- 

1 P*rl- Paf., 1837, No. S39> Minute’s of Evidence, pp. 96, 97; Capt. James 
Barber, A Letter to the Right Honourable Sir John Cam Jfobhouse, Bart., M.P., 
Pres, of the India Board, etc., etc., etc., on Steam Navigation with India . . . 
pp. 9-12 5 Capt. Melville Grindlay, A View of the Present State of the Question as 
to Steam Navigation with India . . . pp. 8—10, 24, 25; Asiatic Journal, XXII, 
N.S., Pt. I, 98, 99. 


208 



ESTABLISHMENT OF THE OVERLAND ROUTE 209 

cern because of the vigor with which he was undertaking to secure 
the compensation due him for his services during the Greek re¬ 
volt. Elsewhere, however, the European world was enjoying 
one of those relatively quiescent moods which gave little indica¬ 
tion of later storms to come. 

The British world, under the impulse of rapidly growing in¬ 
dustry and trade, was thus encouraged to look ahead. The cause 
of improved communications with the East Indies, which had 
been only slowly developing since the premature voyage of the 
Enterprize in 1825, now entered upon a more vigorous career. 
As a result of a substantial parliamentary grant, a well-equipped 
steam expedition was engaged in penetrating Syria to the Eu¬ 
phrates with the object of establishing an imperial highway and 
spanning nearly a score of centuries to bring the valley of Meso¬ 
potamia again within the European horizon. Surveys in the Red 
Sea, the Persian Gulf and elsewhere in the Arabian Sea were 
locating those channels by which India could more readily be 
linked with Europe. “ Steam Committees ” of influential Anglo- 
Indians were keeping up an increasing agitation in the presiden¬ 
cies, and even though their efforts were largely competitive and 
wasteful, the din arising over the issue of improved contacts could 
not be misunderstood in the home country. 

It had long been the complaint of members of the Anglo- 
Indian communities that the Government at home took no inter¬ 
est in improved communication. But similar complaints directed 
against the East India Company were probably better grounded. 
The Company, because of the nature of its monopoly, had until 
lately held supreme sway in eastern waters. Its directors had 
generally been slow to admit that the development of shorter 
lines of communication by means of steam vessels offered any 
particular advantages. This attitude had been assumed because 
of the obvious expense connected with adequate steam establish¬ 
ments and the greater difficulty which would be experienced in 
maintaining an exclusive political policy in India — a policy char¬ 
acterized by careful censorship, the exclusion of all unlicensed 
persons of any nationality, and the keeping of Indian peoples in 
ignorance of western ideas and institutions. Even if this policy 
had not dictated an unreceptive attitude toward the growth of 
rapid steam transit at regular and frequent intervals, the almost 
bankrupt financial condition of the Company must invariably 
have done so. It is a matter of some interest, therefore, to find 
that after the Directors of the Company had with some difficulty 
been persuaded to contribute several thousand pounds sterling to 
the Euphrates Expedition, they were soon further prevailed upon 



210 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

actively to take in hand the development of steam lines on the 
Suez route. 

Several factors combined near the beginning of the year 1835 
to work a change in the views of the Board of Directors toward 
rapid communication. To begin with, some of the officials of the 
Company, who had served with distinction in India, became 
zealous advocates of the new plan. That was particularly true of 
Lord William Bentinck, who, after the completion of his term 
as Governor-General in India, returned to England and remained 
a strong protagonist of steam communication until his death in 
1839. 2 The efforts of the Malcolms have already been adverted 
to. The numerous petitions and memorials from the Indian 
Presidencies also contributed telling influences. 3 But still more 
powerful factors were at work. In 1833 the commercial mon¬ 
opoly of the Company for the China trade had been removed, 
and, because of the deplorable financial status of the concern, 
the entire revocation of its charter was seriously considered by the 
British Government, then and for some time thereafter. 1 The 
matter resulted in the practical assumption by the Government 
of financial responsibility for the Company, leaving its organiza¬ 
tion intact to function very much as an administrative branch of 
the Imperial Government, though still retaining a large degree 
of independence of governmental control. But the Government 
had assumed certain moral and financial obligations for the Com¬ 
pany only with the understanding that an enlightened policy 
would be pursued in future. The Company not only agreed to 
these conditions, one of which was the development of steam lines 
in eastern waters, but it also arrived at the conclusion that the 
more evidences of a progressive policy it could show, the more 
certain would be the support of the Government. Besides, there 
was a great likelihood that if the Company did not develop the 
eastern lines, the British Government would presently invade the 
East for that purpose. 5 This change in policy, coupled with 
the sincere interest of a few of the Directors in the matter of im¬ 
proved contacts with India for both administrative and cultural 
purposes, presently led the Company as actively to promote the 
cause of steam as it had formerly opposed it. 8 

2 Asiatic Journal, XXIX, N.S., Pt. I, 166; ibid., N.S., Pt. I, 312, 313. 

3 Some of the great English business concerns were anxious for the opening of 
the new route in the belief that trade would follow communications. A great boom 
in India cotton was anticipated. — Ibid., Pt. II, 179, 180. 

* Barber, of. cit., p. 48; Pari. Paf., 1837, No. 539, Min. of Ev., pp. 187—190. 

5 Asiatic Journal, XVIII, N.S.f Pt. II, 38. 

8 Sir James Carnac, Chairman of the Court of Directors, was especially active 
in support of a thorough development of steam communication. — Ibid.. XXIII, 
N.S., Pt. II, 34. 



ESTABLISHMENT OF THE OVERLAND ROUTE 211 

As long as the Euphrates Expedition gave promise of any ac¬ 
complishments of value toward the development of what was 
generally termed an “ alternative ” route, sentiment was slow in 
focusing on the route by way of the Red Sea, which the Select 
Parliamentary Committee of 1834 had designated as the future 
main artery of communication. The Euphrates Expedition was, 
of course, a Government proj ect, and British officialdom was more 
concerned with the circumventing of rivals by means of a strategic 
line than with the sending of private communications, despatches, 
and business papers. Nevertheless, some definite progress was 
made before 1837 toward the permanent opening of the more 
essential line. The first intimation of a change in the policy of 
the East India House was contained in a notice issued early in 
the year 1835 by the Post Office in London, stating that, beginning 
with the second of March following, letters would be accepted 
for India by way of Egypt, postage to be prepaid as far as 
Alexandria. 7 Such mails were to be made up on the first of every 
succeeding month and despatched from Falmouth for Malta in 
the steam packets of the Admiralty. From Malta they would be 
forwarded to Alexandria by branch steamers at such times as the 
necessary vessels were available. That this plan was looked upon 
as being more than a temporary trial is indicated by the fact that 
the Admiralty Board simultaneously placed orders for the build¬ 
ing of six new steamers expressly for the Mediterranean service. 8 
Private agencies and the good-will of the Pasha were relied upon 
for the time being to secure the transmission of all private mails 
to Cairo and across the desert to the Red Sea. From Suez the 
vessels of the Indian Navy were expected to maintain as regular 
a service as possible. 9 

Another significant gesture was contained in an announcement 
made in the House of Commons by Sir John Hobhouse, Presi¬ 
dent of the India Board, in August, 1835, that an arrangement 
had been completed between His Maj esty’s Government and the 
East India Company whereby two large steam vessels were to be 
added to the Indian Navy and used on the Suez line to supple¬ 
ment the Hugh Lindsay.™ While this news was received with 

7 Ibid., XVI, N.S., Pt. II, 148. 

8 Steam to India: or, The New Indian Guide . . . (London, 1835), pp. 242, 
243. This plan was varied on several occasions by the sending- of packets to Beirut 
or Antioch, instead of Egypt, so that the Persian Gulf route might be given a 
comparative trial. 

8 The Hugh Lindsay , of course, could not maintain the service alone, and was 
supplemented by the sailing ships of the Navy for a time, and by the Forbes on one 
occasion. 

10 Asiatic Journal, XVIII, N.S., Pt. II, 38; ibid., XXI, N.S., Pt. II, 178-1805 
London Times, 18 Aug., 1835. This step had been bitterly opposed by the stock- 



212 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


signs of joy both in England and in India, it was at the same time 
apparent that before the Suez line could be considered as in any 
sense fully opened, additional facilities would be necessary both 
on the Indian end of the line and for the transit through Egypt. 
The conclusion had been reached by all authorities on the subject 
of improved communications that, although a service requiring 
steam voyages from India to Suez four times per year had been 
suggested in Calcutta at various times, nothing less than a regular 
monthly service would be in any way adequate. 11 It was still 
considered probable that for three or four months during the 
height of the southwest monsoon the line by the Persian Gulf 
and Euphrates would be found more practicable than voyages 
direct to Suez, even if the new steam vessels being constructed 
should be able to combat the head winds and heavy seas of the 
Arabian Sea successfully. 12 

The arrangements made by Crown and Company in 1835 pro¬ 
duced some degree of satisfaction in India only at Bombay. Since 
the new steamers were to be placed on the Suez-Bombay line, the 
inhabitants of the second presidency found themselves fairly 
well provided for and so had less occasion for fault-finding than 
the Anglo-Indian communities on the opposite side of India. 
From the beginning, the people of Bombay had placed their faith 
in Government rather than in private enterprise for the realiza¬ 
tion of their hopes, and by 1836 it appeared as if their judgment 
were about to be vindicated. 1-1 So sanguine were some of the mem¬ 
bers of the Bombay Steam Committee, in fact, that at a meeting 
held on October 20, 1836, it was decided that, “ since steam com¬ 
munication was a thing practically assured, and since the [steam ] 
fund was not sufficient for any great purpose,” it should be repaid 
■pro rata to the original subscribers. The members of the Steam 
Committee afterward reconsidered their action, however, fearing 

holders of the Company, who had insisted that it was not just to emhark on a policy 
which must inevitably lead to the placing of additional burdens on the Indian peoples, 
who would derive little or no benefit from the establishment and who were not 
interested in it. India already had to pay an annual proprietors’ dividend of 
£6 30,000, it was stated, and the projected steam line would add to this an annual 
expense of about £150,000. 

11 Actual test in 1837 appeared to show that more letters were despatched by 
each monthly mail than by bi-monthly or quarterly voyages. — Asiatic Journal, 
XXI, N.S., Pt. II, 48. 

12 The experimental voyages of the Hugh Lindsay, while of considerable value, 
did not aid a great deal in the solving of many of these problems because of their 
irregularity and the fact that they had not been made under typical or uniform 
conditions. 

Asiatic Journal, XXI, N.S., Pt. II, 23, 24; Pari. Pap., 1837, No. 539, Min. 
of Ev., p. 1 6. 



ESTABLISHMENT OF THE OVERLAND ROUTE 213 

that the dissolution, of their steam fund would signify a lack of 
further interest in the cause which had yet hardly developed 
beyond an embryonic stage. At a subsequent meeting, therefore, 
the previous action was rescinded, and it was voted to apply as 
much of the fund as was necessary to the development and im¬ 
provement of the passage through Egypt, with particular ref¬ 
erence to that part of the line between Suez and Cairo. 14 For 
several years to come, Bombay funds were wisely employed in 
this manner, and many travellers had adequate cause to be thank¬ 
ful for the arrangements thus made for their comfort and con¬ 
venience which contributed materially to rob the desert trip of 
its dread. 

Meanwhile, Calcutta and Madras were growing more and 
more impatient. The Company’s new steam program of 1835 
made no particular provision for these presidencies because mails 
could be carried by dak across country to and from Bombay as 
rapidly as they could be transported by sea, and passenger traffic 
was estimated to be insufficient to warrant additional steam lines 
around India. 15 The English residents of these capitals, however, 
felt that their needs had been overlooked. Their feeling of 
humiliation in not being taken more into account was frequently 
aggravated by delays in the transmission of the mails to or from 
Bombay overland, and especially by the sang froid with which 
the Bombay authorities despatched packet vessels for Suez with¬ 
out having given due notice in the other presidencies, or without 
having waited for the mails known to be en route to Bombay from 
other Indian centres. Such mails were, of course, held at Bom¬ 
bay until the sailing of the next vessel, which might thus cause 
them to arrive in England later than if they had been despatched 
in sailing ships around the Cape. This carelessness of Govern¬ 
ment officials at Bombay grew from a grievance into an abuse, and 
eventually required rigid schedules for the sailings, made binding 
by orders from the Court of Directors and from the Supreme 
Government at Calcutta. 16 

At no time did the Calcutta community have much faith in the 
Company’s plans for steam communication. 17 From the begin- 

14 Asiatic Journal) XXIII, N.S., Pt, II, pp. 34, 35. A part of the Steam Fund 
was placed at the disposal of the Bombay Government for the sending of mail 
overland between Basrah and Beirut. 

19 Ibid.) XXVII, N.S., Pt. II, 277, 294; Purl. Paf., 1837, No. 539, Min. of Ev., 
p. 15. The dak (or dawk) sometimes made the difficult journey between Calcutta 
and Bombay in ten days at this period, though usually at least fifteen were required. 

19 Asiatic Journal) XXIII, N.S., Pt. II, 298; ibid XXV, N.S., Pt. II, 2x1 
(quoted from Bengal Hurkaru of 19 Dec., 1837) 5 ibid., XXXI, N.S., Pt. II, 7, 12, 
37j Bombay Times, 28 Sept., 1839. 

17 Asiatic Journal, XXI, N.S., Pt. I, 236. 



214 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

ning these merchants and officials were inclined to look to private 
enterprise as the only means of securing adequate steam service. 
The Company was too obviously content with developing the 
Bombay line for mails and despatches, whereas Calcutta and 
Madras were determined to have not merely their own direct 
mail service, but transportation facilities, as well, which would 
make possible a much greater degree of personal contact with the 
mother country. Steam lines to their own ports would enable 
families to escape to England at the opening of the hot season and 
return at its close. With such lines in question business could be 
more readily transacted, children could be placed in English 
schools, and the isolation of residence in India would be lessened 
to a marked degree. It has been noted that the first private steam 
enterprises, sponsored by Capt. Johnston and Mr. Waghorn, had 
failed to materialize, the one through the insufficiency of early 
steam vessels, and the other largely through paucity of capital. 
In 1836, however, just as the Calcutta Steam Committee was 
contemplating the purchase of one or more steamers for a quar¬ 
terly communication with England around the Cape of Good 
Hope, 18 a new enterprise was launched in London which absorbed 
attention for the time being and gave momentary promise of 
success. 

The new scheme was outlined by Major Charles Franklin 
Head, who had been more or less identified with the Suez route 
since, under commission from Governor Malcolm of Bombay, he 
had examined and reported on it in 1830. In 1836 he and some 
associates, organized as a London Steam Committee, came forward 
with a well-matured plan for a steamship company to operate 
vessels on both sides of the Isthmus of Suez to all of the presi¬ 
dencies. 19 The prospectus of the new concern, called the “ East 
India Steam Navigation Company,” was published on October u, 
1836, and gave the details of the project. It proposed a capital 
stock of £500,000, made up into 10,000 shares of £50 each. 
These funds were to be used in building, at the outset, nine steam¬ 
ships for operating the entire distance between England and 
India on a monthly basis, three of them, of 600 tons each, to sail 
between England and Malta, two, of 480 tons each, to operate 
between Malta and Alexandria, and the four others, of 600 tons, 
to sail on the line between Suez and Bombay. The service was 
to be expanded to all of the presidencies at the earliest possible 
moment, and later to be extended to Australia and China, as 

18 The Calcutta plan is described in Grindlay, A View of the Present State of 

the Question as to Steam Navigation with India, p. x6. 

19 Pari. Paf. } 1837, No. 539, Min. of Ev., pp. 87, 102, fassim. 



ESTABLISHMENT OF THE OVERLAND ROUTE 2x5 

well. Dividends of 5% were to be paid from the beginning. 
The Company’s income was to be derived principally from sub¬ 
sidies from the British Government, expected to amount to £74,- 
500 per year, and from the East India Company, of perhaps 
£65,000 annually, for carriage of mails, loan of vessels in time 
of war, and other services. 20 

This scheme contained many of the elements of a plan which 
was successfully put into operation by another organization in 
1840, and it is interesting because of its ancestral character and 
formative influence. As soon as it was put forward it provoked 
wide interest and no small amount of controversy. One writer 
argued that the plan was much to be preferred to that considered 
by the Calcutta Steam Committee, as the latter proposed only 
quarterly voyages, whereas the new Company proposed to operate 
monthly. 2 ' This seemed to be such a plan as had been advocated 
a few years before by Mr. T. L. Peacock, of the East India House, 
when he said before a Parliamentary Committee regarding the 
establishment of steam connections with India, that “ between 
doing it efficiently and not doing it at all, there seems to be no 
advisable medium.” 22 There were many enthusiasts in the 
eastern presidencies who thought that only a private commercial 
concern would be able properly to meet the expanding needs of 
the three presidencies. 23 And the report was freely circulated 
that both the Home Government and the East India Company 
looked upon the plan with approval, although this report sub¬ 
sequently proved to be without foundation. 2 ' 4 

On receipt of the first reports of the enterprise from London, 
all parts of India responded favorably. The Bombay community 
expressed approval of the enterprise and promised cooperation, 
but they actually took no steps to advance it, no doubt fearing 
that its success might prevent or postpone the anticipated full 
development of the Bombay line by Government agencies. 28 An 
interested group of Madras inhabitants, called together by the 
Steam Committee in October, 1836, voted “ to support, by taking 

20 Grindlay, of. cit., pp. 74-7S $ Asiatic Journal, XXI, N.S., Pt. II, 70. The 
amounts requested as subsidy were subsequently reduced to £40,000 and £25,000 
respectively, leaving £58,000 to be made up from private sources, passenger fares, 
transportation of valuable goods, and the like. 

21 Grindlay, of. cii., 147—157. 

22 Ibid., XXIII, N.S., Pt. II, 106. 

22 Ibid., XXI, N.S., Pt. I, 316$ Barber, of. cit pp. 35 , 37* There were those, 
however, who thought the East India Company the logical agepey for the task.— 
Asiatic Journal, XXI, N.S., Pt. II, 153, 154. 

24 Asiatic Journal, XXI, N.S., Pt. I, 70 j ibid., XXII, N.S., Pt. II, 256 j Pari. Paf., 
1837, No. 539, Min. of Ev., pp. 15-165 Dionysius Lardner, Steam Communication 
•with India by the Red Sea . . . (London, 1837). 

25 Asiatic Journal, XXIII, N.S., Pt. II, 216, 217. 



216 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

shares in any Joint Stock Company possessing a charter, which 
shall be formed in England under the auspices of the committee 
of which Maj. Head is chairman, for the accomplishing of a 
steam communication which shall secure to Madras the advan¬ 
tage of a direct communication from the Red Sea. . . .” A 
subscription list of those who would be willing to purchase shares 
in the concern was also begun. However, when later informa¬ 
tion, including the Company’s prospectus, revealed the fact that 
only Bombay was to be the terminus of the line at the outset, 
enthusiasm gave place to aloofness. In January, 1 83 7 > meeting 
of the Madras Steam Committee adopted a resolution which 
stated that u The inhabitants of Madras . . . are not yet ^pre¬ 
pared to enter into any negotiation with the Provisional Com¬ 
mittee of London in regard to shares in the proposed Indian 
Steam-Company. . . The number of shares taken here will be 
much increased, if the port of Madras is included in the benefits 
of the steam-communication, as well in regard to passengers as 
letters.” 27 

The spokesmen of the Calcutta community were especially 
cool in their attitude toward the new steam company, although 
their paid agent in London, Capt. Melville Grindlay, was one of 
its ardent supporters. In replying to the overtures of the officers 
of the new concern, the Bengal Steam Committee said: 

The Calcutta Committee consider that no plan can be effi¬ 
cient which does not embrace the whole communication from 
England to Calcutta, thereby including every part of India, 
dropping mails and passengers in its progress, whether at 
Gibraltar, Malta, Alexandria, Bombay (from Socotra), 
Galle, Madras, and so on to Calcutta, proceeding the whole 
way with the utmost despatch. If this despatch is imprac¬ 
ticable, as the London Committees have suggested, a com¬ 
munication to Calcutta round the Cape would be preferable . 28 

The Committee ridiculed the idea of making the project pay as 
long as it was confined to Bombay. Indeed, they were so cha¬ 
grined at the support given it by their agent, Grindlay, that at a 
later meeting a resolution was unanimously adopted, stating: 

That as Capt. Grindlay has not advocated the plan of ex¬ 
tending steam communication to all the ports of India, as 
prayed for in the petition and memorials of the inhabitants 

26 Asiatic Journal, XXV, N.S., Pt. II, 191. 

27 Ibid., XXIII, N.S., Pt. II, 65, 1 IX. 28 Ibid., 106-108. 



ESTABLISHMENT OF THE OVERLAND ROUTE 217 

of Bengal, entrusted to him for . . . that object, the Com¬ 
mittee cannot but feel dissatisfied with his agency, and 

request, therefore, that he will bring his accounts . . . to a 

close, as soon as practicable. 29 

This action by the stormy petrels of the Calcutta Presidency 
caused a distinct break with the London Steam Committee, which 
stoutly upheld the loyalty and conscientiousness of Capt. Grindlay. 
The breach was not closed by the appointment of Capt. Barber, 
one of the members of the provisional steam company, as Grind- 
lay’s successor. 30 From this time forward, the East India Steam 
Navigation Company entered no longer into the calculations of 
officials and merchants of the principal Indian metropolis. 

By the first of the year 1837, it was apparent to all well in¬ 
formed persons that the Euphrates Expedition had altogether 
failed in its object of opening up a line by which mails and pas¬ 
sengers could be regularly and safely transported. The first of 
that year also saw two new steamers put into commission on the 
line from Bombay to the Red Sea by the East India Company. 
These vessels, the Atalanta, of 617' tons and 210 horsepower, and 
the Berenice, 765 tons and 220 horsepower, built in accordance 
with the joint arrangement of 1835, were sent out to India by way 
of the Cape in December, 1836, and March, 1837, and were im¬ 
mediately put into commission. 31 As this arrangement appeared 
to be entirely feasible, negotiations were soon recommenced by the 
Court of Directors and the Board of Control for extending 
the service thus begun so that no interruptions need occur in the 
monthly service to Suez. 

In taking up the matter of the extension of existing arrange¬ 
ments on the Indian side of the Isthmus of Suez, the Board of 
Control, supported by other departments of Government, wished 

20 Ibid., XXI, N.S., Pt. II, 4, 65, 13J; ibid., XXIV, N.S., Pt. II, no. The 

Madras Conservative (23 May, 1837) protested bitterly against this action and asked 
for a plausible reason, insisting that “ a just one they cannot give.” The petition 
referred to was one drawn up at a meeting on March 5, 1836, and which was sent 
to England bearing 3,542 signatures, £< including almost every man of influence 
at Calcutta.” 

80 Ibid., XXV, N.S., Pt II, 77, 78; ibid., XXIV, N.S., Pt. II, 305, 3065 ibid., 
XXVI, N.S., Pt II, 188, 207, 208, 277. 

81 Low, History of the Indian Navy, II, 50-525 Pari. Paf ., 1837, No. 539, 
Min. of Ev., pp. 21, fassim; App. No. I, p. 2075 Asiatic Journal , XXII, N.S., Pt. 
II, 2ot, 202. According to the temporary plan, the Atalanta and the Berenice were 
to sail in alternate months from Bombay to Mocha and Suez. In their outward 
voyages to Bombay, during which both steam and sails were used, the Atalanta con¬ 
sumed 106 days and the Berenice 108 days. Compared with these records, that of 
the Enterfrize of 113 days to Calcutta in 1825 shows up very favorably. 



218 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

to adopt what had already been termed in Calcutta the “ compre¬ 
hensive plan ” of service to all three of the presidencies. The 
Court of Directors demurred at this, and, stating their belief that 
India would be sufficiently provided for by a complete develop¬ 
ment of the Bombay line, proposed that this feature be left ten¬ 
tative, so that as the steam equipment was augmented and more 
experience was gained the service might be extended to Madras 
and Calcutta. This proposal was accepted by Sir John Hobhouse 
for the Board of Control, in order to secure immediate action, 
though he considered it but “half a loaf.” 32 Estimates were 
then prepared of the number of new steamers and the expense 
required, which showed a cost of £88,000 per annum for the 
operation of four steamers from Bombay, exclusive of their 
original cost, the total of which was placed at £120,000. It was 
agreed that this expense was to be shared between Government 
and Company, the former receiving all income from postage, and 
the Company having the privilege of withdrawing the vessels 
from packet service in the event of dangerous hostilities in the 
East. 33 The arrangement having been agreed to by all parties 
concerned, the Court of Directors sent to the Governor-General 
of India on June 2 a despatch stating that provisions for a regular 
monthly communication between Bombay and England by way of 
the Red Sea had been concluded and directing him to establish 
the necessary coal depots at Bombay, Mocha, and Suez. 3 ' 1 ' 

This was the situation when, with the return to England of 
members of the Euphrates Expedition, the whole question of 
steam communication with India was raised in the House of Com¬ 
mons on the night of June xo. Lord William Bentinck, in pre¬ 
senting another petition from the Calcutta Steam Committee, 
took occasion to move the appointment of a Select Committee “ to 
enquire into the practicability of effecting a steam-communication 
with India.” Sir John Hobhouse thereupon announced for the 
first time, that an arrangement had lately been completed by the 

32 Pari. Pap., 1837, No. 539, Min. of Ev., p. 225 Asiatic Journal, XXII, N.S., 
Pt. II, 289, 290, “Debate at the East India House.” Nevertheless, there were good 
reasons for suspecting that steam lines from Suez to Madras and Calcutta, rounding 
Ceylon at Point de Galle, would be more expensive to operate and would be less 
profitable than a line to Bombay direct. All parts of India could be served in some 
fashion from Bombay, while it appeared doubtful whether the increased volume of 
patronage from the Indian East Coast would warrant the extension of service to 
those ports. A steam equipment sufficient for frequent anti regular service from 
Suez to all of the Indian Presidencies would have to be twice as extensive as that 
required for sailings alone. See Capt. James Barber, Statement of Facts relating to 
Steam-Communication with India, on the Comprehensive Plan (London, 1839). 

33 Asiatic Journal, XXIII, N.S., Pt. II, 163, 259, 325. 

34 Pari. Pap., 1837, No. 539, Min. of Ev., p. 21. Aden, of course, had not yet 
come to be considered the principal way station. 



ESTABLISHMENT OF THE OVERLAND ROUTE 219 

Government with the Court of Directors for the carrying out of 
just such an object, and he continued that “ it must be clearly 
understood that he consented to the appointment of this commit¬ 
tee on condition that it should not in any way interfere with that 
arrangement.” Under these conditions the motion was carried. 35 

Thus, with its power already circumscribed and its functions 
largely predetermined, the Select Committee of the House of 
Commons was formed, with instructions “ to inquire into the best 
means of establishing a communication by steam with India by 
way of the Red Sea.” Not much time remained before the close 
of the parliamentary session, but in the time available, the Com¬ 
mittee examined all the bearings of the subject as thoroughly as 
possible. Evidence was received from representatives of the 
India House, the Board of Control, the Indian steam associations, 
the proposed East India Steam Navigation Company, and 
others. 30 In order to review and verify the official arrangements 
already embarked upon, the Committee undertook a comparison 
of the probable efficiency of private and public agencies in the 
transportation of mails and passengers, and the relative adequacy 
of the Bombay and “ comprehensive ” plans. The final report 
of the Committee, handed in on July 15, sanctioned the Govern¬ 
ment scheme in general. However, Lord Bentinck, Chairman of 
the Committee, and some others of the group, believed the exist¬ 
ing plans somewhat shortsighted, and they insisted upon writing 
into the report the statement that — 

Inasmuch as ... a direct communication by steam from 
the Red Sea to Ceylon, Madras, and Bengal, would be prac¬ 
ticable at ail seasons of the year by the employment of 
vessels of .adequate tonnage and power; and as, under judi¬ 
cious arrangements, such extended establishments would 
appear to offer a prospect of an adequate return for the 
increased outlay, by the conveyance of Passengers, and of 
some valuable articles of Merchandize, which cannot be ex¬ 
pected from the limited communication with Bombay alone; 
Your committee feel bound to recommend a continued atten¬ 
tion to the subject on the part of Her Majesty’s Government 
and the East India Company. . A 

The report of the Committee had no appreciable effect on the 
joint plans of the Government and East India Company, but it 

85 Asiatic Journal , XXIII, N.S., Pt. II, 261, 325. 

88 See the list of witnesses in Park Pap 1837, No. 539, p. [iv]. 

87 I bid., p. [ixi]$ Asiatic Journal , XXIV, N.S., Pt. I, 249—264. 



220 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


did, by showing the impossibility of securing Government support 
and guarantees for any similar private venture, bring about the 
complete disruption of the provisional East India Steam concern. 
Private initiative in eastern steam navigation was again looked 
upon with favor only after considerable experience had been 
gained both by the East India Company and the interested public 
in the anomaly of operating as mail and passenger steamers boats 
which were constructed with a view to their capacity as war vessels 
and which were truculently commanded by officers of the Indian 
Navy. 

In the meantime, the details of the official scheme of communi¬ 
cation were being worked out rapidly, in marked contrast with 
the dilatory way in which the matter had been approached in 
preceding years. One of the matters of concern related to the 
postage which should be levied on mails to and from India. Ac¬ 
cording to existing law, the rates by the overland route must be 
the same as those charged for transportation in sailing packets 
around the Cape. Since the new steam transit would be very 
much more costly than the old, as well as much speedier, the Post 
Office Department was finally convinced that a higher rate of 
postage would be warranted to help offset the additional expense. 
Soon after the report of the Select Committee, an Act was passed 
placing the postage on letters of I ounce weight at 4 shillings, and 
4 shillings more for each additional one-quarter ounce. Other 
rates were in proportion, and it was optional whether they were 
paid in advance. The usual postage charges were retained 
on Government packets in the Mediterranean. 38 The India 
rates were high, to be sure, but business houses had expressed 
their entire willingness to bear such expense, since correspondence 
could be sent by the overland passage in about half the usual 
time. 

The question of establishing coal depots also received careful 
attention. Heretofore all the coal used in Indian steamers had 
been sent put in sailing ships around the Cape, and because of the 
high quality required, the time and costs involved in shipment 
and transshipment, and the rapid depreciation of the quality of 
fuel in the tropics, it was one of the largest items in the mainte¬ 
nance of rapid steam service to Red Sea ports. Coal placed at 
the stations along the route, at such points as Socotra, Aden, 

38 6 & 7 William IV, ch. 7 6; The Bengal and Agra Annual Guide and Gazetteer 
for 1841, 3 d ed., I, 85, 86; Asiatic Journal, XXIII, N.S., Pt. II, 259, 326. The 
rates specified for the overland route were also to apply to that by wav of Svria 
and the Persian Gulf. y 



ESTABLISHMENT OF THE OVERLAND ROUTE 221 


Mocha, Jeddah, Cosseir, and Suez, had to be sent out to Bombay 
in sailing vessels, and reloaded and reshipped to Arabia and the 
Red Sea. Coal deposited at Suez for the use of the Hugh Lindsay 
on the first series of voyages had cost from £8 to £13 per ton; 
and as several hundred tons were required for each voyage the 
fuel item alone sometimes had reached the relatively staggering 
sum of £2500 per trip. 39 Thomas Waghorn helped to solve this 
problem as far as the coal depots in Egypt were concerned. Fol¬ 
lowing his establishment in Egypt in 1835 as an East India agent, 
he set about organizing a means of conveying coal from Alexandria 
to Red Sea ports overland. At one time, Waghorn had a large 
caravan of camels in constant service between Cairo, whence the 
coal was transported in barges from Alexandria, and Suez, the 
labor being so cheap at that time that the price of coal at Suez was 
lowered from about £10 to £3 per ton. 40 This was no small 
factor in the rapidity with which steamships multiplied in eastern 
waters after 1835, and it was undoubtedly one of Waghorn’s 
greatest accomplishments. Efforts were continued over a period 
of several years to locate a suitable supply of coal in India, in 
Egypt, and even in Syria. Now and then the search appeared to 
meet with success; but comparative tests always proved the greater 
worth of English or Welsh coal. 41 

From the time of the establishment of frequent French packet 
service between Marseilles and Alexandria, many travellers going 
in both directions had availed themselves of the French line, 
preferring the speedy land trip between Marseilles and the 
Channel to the long, rough voyage by the Admiralty packets 
through the Straits of Gibraltar and across the Bay of Biscay to 
Falmouth. Now that speed was becoming an essential in the 
despatch of mails, the plan was suggested of sending the English 
mails direct from London through France to Marseilles, thence 
either by Admiralty packet or French steamer to Malta, and from 
Malta to Alexandria by British Government vessel. This was a 
matter of some delicacy, since the British Government could 
hardly contemplate having official mails and despatches passed 
through the French Post Office. On the other hand, the French 
authorities hesitated to permit the mails to pass through France 
in sealed packets, accompanied by an official messenger or courier 

39 Low, of. cit., II, 13S5 James Douglas, Glimpses of Old Bombay and Western 
India, p. 142. Douglas says that at one time coal cost £23 per ton at Suez and 
required fifteen months to get there. 

40 Asiatic Journal, XXIV, N.S., Pt. II, 175. 

41 Bombay Times, 15 June, 18395 Asiatic Journal, XXX, N,S., Pt, II, 122, 1895 
Park Paf., 1858, No. 382, p. 37. 



222 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

de cabinet , for whose safety and expedition the French Govern¬ 
ment would naturally be held to a degree responsible. 

Late in May, 1837, Lord Palmerston took up with the French 
Government the matter of the transit of the mails through France, 
and effected a temporary and tentative arrangement w'hereby 
official despatches in sealed packages were to be permitted to pass 
without inspection by the French Post Office if accompanied by an 
official messenger. 42 This did not apply to the general Indian 
mails, however. The solution to this rather baffling problem was 
suggested to the Government by a Mr. Calvert, who had formerly 
been a resident at Malta. He proposed that in return for the 
privilege of sending all Indian mails through France en cachet , 
and their transportation through the Mediterranean in French 
steamers, the French were to be accorded a like privilege of 
sending their eastern mails to or from Alexandria in the Admiralty 
packets, with the right of passing or exchanging them at Malta 
unopened. This arrangement would save some ten days in time 
between London and Malta for the British mails, with the addi¬ 
tional advantage of speedier and more frequent steam service in 
the Mediterranean, the French steamers being faster than those 
of the British Government. 43 French mails, on the other hand, 
might pursue a more direct route between Marseilles and Alex¬ 
andria, with the option of being shipped to or from Suez in the 
vessels of the East India Company. 44 

Some time was required to carry these proposals into effect. 
During the course of the negotiations with the various authorities 
of the French Government, English mails were sent as usual by 
Government packet from Falmouth. After the first of Septem¬ 
ber, 1837, -the sailings from this point for Iberian ports were 
weekly, stops being made at Vigo, Oporto, Lisbon, Cadiz, and 
Gibraltar. From the latter station, other vessels continued the 
service fortnightly to Malta, Greece, the Ionian Islands, and 
Egypt. Mails and passengers destined for India and the East 
were transferred at Malta to a third line running direct to Alex¬ 
andria. 45 The many stops and transfers along the route retarded 
progress to a great extent, and had much influence on a new series 
of attempts to establish a single direct through service from 
London to India which came into prominence three years later. 

42 Bombay Times y 1837, No. 539, Min. of Ev., p. zi. 

43 Ibid. } Min. of Ev., pp. 114-116$ Asiatic Journal , XXIII, N.S., Pt. II, 162 $ 
ibid., XXIV, N.S., Pt. II, 175. French packets were plying- between France and 
Egypt regularly every ten days in 1837. 

42 Pari. Paf. y 1837, No. 539, Min. of Ev., p. 21. 

45 Asiatic Journal , XXIV, N.S., Pt. II, 53. 



ESTABLISHMENT OF THE OVERLAND ROUTE 223 

Passengers meanwhile might choose their route in travelling 
to Alexandria. Those to whom time was no great object might 
sail in the Admiralty packets from Falmouth, transferring with 
the mails at Gibraltar and Malta. Those desiring greater de¬ 
spatch or less mal tie mer could proceed from London across the 
Channel to Paris, from Paris to Marseilles in express carriages, 
and from Marseilles in a French packet to Alexandria by way of 
Nice, Livoria, Naples, Malta, and Navarino twice a month. A 
third alternative lay in reaching Trieste, at the head of the Adri¬ 
atic Sea, by any one of a number of routes, and proceeding thence 
to Alexandria in vessels of the Austrian Lloyd which ran by way 
of Constantinople.' 10 At Suez (or Cosseir, if they chose to go by 
way of Upper Egypt) opportunities for reaching India would, of 
course, be identical with those for the mails. 47 There was some 
choice as late as 1837 between steam or sailing vessels of the 
Indian Navy, although there was seldom an opportunity to exer¬ 
cise the choice owing to the fact that, until 1839, all sailing 
schedules east of Suez were prepared by officials of the Bombay 
Government and seldom announced long in advance. Of the two 
types of vessels, the steamers made much more rapid voyages, as 
a rule. Voyages between England and India were frequently 
made by steam within the space of sixty days, and at the height of 
the southwest monsoon, within eighty-five days. In 1836 one 
English mail reached Bombay in the space of forty-five days, 48 
and records established during one season were apt to be broken 
during the next for some years to come. 

Steam voyages in the Mediterranean by any of the several 
lines were uniformly accounted a pleasure. 49 Such was not the 
case, however, on the steam vessels of the Indian Navy. For 
comfort, the sailing vessels employing the Cape route, or even 
the sailing cruisers of the Indian Navy, were to be preferred to 
the best of the Company’s steamers. A well-known traveller, 
who was also an impartial observer, gave the following account 
of conditions on the Berenice , one of the crack vessels of the 
Indian Navy: 

40 Edward Robinson, Biblical Researches in Palestine and Adjacent Regions .. . 
(3 vols., London, 1856), I, 3 fL The Austrian steamers ran twice a month at this 
time, and were frequently patronized by English travellers. 

47 London Times, z Oct., 18355 Asiatic Journal, XVIII, N.S., Pt. II, 1925 
Morning Herald, 29 Dec., 1835. 

4S Grindlay, of. cit., pp. 89—915 Asiatic Journal, XXIII, N.S., Pt. II, 217. The 
latter account gives the time as 44 days. Other mails by the same route during the 
year required from 53 to 85 days. 

49 Asiatic Journal, XXX, N.S., Pt. II, 299-3015 Capt. T. Seymour Burt, Nar¬ 
rative of a Late Steam Voyage from England to India (London, 1840) 5 Memoranda 
for Travellers froceeding via Egyft from India to England (London, 1838). 



224 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


. . . The cabins were small and miserable. Cockroaches 
abounded. Washing had to be done in a public room. Each 
passenger was expected to fit up his own stateroom on the 
government steamers. Sleeping accommodations consisted 
of a mattress placed on some trunks or boxes, while many 
slept on tables and benches. The rooms were hot and smelly, 
and the servants lazy and indolent. Food was served in the 
common saloon, which also served the purpose of toilet room 
and lounge for both sexes. . . Piles of coal soot invaded 
everything. . . 60 

Yet for practical purposes, the trial of monthly steam com¬ 
munication, informally undertaken in 1836 and extended in 1837, 
worked fully as well as its protagonists had expected, even though 
the service was by no means perfect. There were instances of 
heartburn in the presidencies when mails from Calcutta and 
Madras occasionally missed being despatched from Bombay on 
the proper steamer. 51 In 1838 some of the mail packets being 
despatched both to and from India by the Mesopotamian route 
during the monsoon season were seized and rifled by the Arabs 
and their contents lost. 02 Occasionally steamers putting out from 
Bombay during the prevalence of the southwest monsoon were 
unable to reach their destination and had to put back into port. 03 
During the same year, the whole service was seriously disrupted 
for a time owing to the necessity of diverting some of the Com¬ 
pany’s steamers from their usual duties on the Suez line to war 
service in the demonstration against Persia. 04 By-this time, how¬ 
ever, dependence on regular Indian mails was such that, instead 
of provoking a storm of criticism against the whole business of 
steam transit by the overland route, as would have been the case 
but a very few years earlier, the wave of indignation was directed 

50 “Notes of a Journey through France and Egypt to Bombay,” in A italic 
Journal, XXXII, N.S., Pt. I, 104-106. This is part of a detailed account given by 
Emma Roberts, who made this particular trip (in 1839) chiefly for the experience. 
Soon after reaching India, however, she succumbed to the effects of the climate and 
died at Poona, in September, 1839, but a short time after her “Notes” had been 
sent in. Miss Roberts ascribed much of the discomfort on board the Company’s 
vessels to the fact that the officers hated the steam service. 

61 Asiatic Journal, XXXI, N.S., Pt. II, 13, 30. 

Ibid., XXVII, N.S., Pt. II, 159, 294, 295. There appeared to be some reason 
to suspect that these Arabs had been sent out by the orders of Mehemct Ali for the 
express purpose of intercepting and plundering the mails. This was probably 
another of his many attempts to discredit the route through Mesopotamia and the 
Persian Gulf. 

XT o 53 J L °Y’ 0i> - cit -> n » ss ’ 56i Dou g' Ias > of- cit ; p. 137 i Asiatic Journal, XXX, 
JN.b., Pt. II, 121, 122. 

54 Parl - Pa I; i 843> No. 399, p. 2; Asiatic Journal, XXVII, N.S., Pt. I, 89. 



ESTABLISHMENT OF THE OVERLAND ROUTE 225 

at the Company’s political policy and at a system which permitted 
a complete suspension of service whenever hostilities threatened. 
Business houses had come to place a great deal of reliance on 
speedy and dependable communication, and any defects which 
developed in the scheme after 1837 elicited a chorus of protests, 
not so much from the calamity-mongers, as from business houses 
engaged in the eastern trade. 

The number of Company’s steam vessels in Indian waters was 
meanwhile growing. To the Atalanta and Berenice, sent out from 
England in 1836 and early in 1837, was added the S emir amis in 
April, 1838. This vessel, of 720 tons and 300 horsepower, com¬ 
manded by Capt. George Barnes Brucks, who had won his spurs 
in the surveys of the Indian Navy, was built with the purpose of 
conquering “ that bug-bear of Bombay imagination, the southwest 
monsoon.” 55 The Semiramis proved to be unequal to the mon¬ 
soon at its height, however. After having returned from armed 
service in the Persian Gulf, the vessel was despatched from Bom¬ 
bay on July 15’, 18383 and for eight days plunged into the high 
seas, covering but six hundred miles. With coal practically gone 
and paddle wheels battered by the heavy seas, the vessel had to 
return to Bombay. 56 But this was an exception that proved the 
rule; ordinarily these steamers were able to reach the mouth of 
the Red Sea in the most adverse weather. 57 

The Semiramis was the first vessel to be added to the Com¬ 
pany’s fleet in accordance with the joint plan adopted in May and 
June of 1837. Some of the later vessels to be added were built 
in the dockyard at Bombay, and fitted with engines brought out 
from England. These were to make possible a complete steam 
service on the Suez line and thus leave the sailing vessels for 
survey and patrol work. Several new or remodeled steamers 
were added to the eastern fleet in 1839 and 1840. Early in 1839 
the Court of Directors found occasion to purchase for the packet 
service an English coast-wise steamer, named the Kilkenny. She 
had already been for some time in service, carrying swine from 
Waterford to Bristol. After a perfunctory overhauling, this 
vessel, of 684 tons and 280 horsepower, was despatched to Bom¬ 
bay and was added to the service under the classic name of 
Zenobia, and within a few months became the most unpopular 
packet in the fleet. The Victoria, 705 tons and 230 horsepower, 

55 Low, of. cit. } II, 52, 53. 

56 Asiatic Journal , XXVII, N.S., Pt. II, 277, 294. 

57 The voyages to Suez during the monsoon were frequently made under great 
difficulty, however. See Asiatic Journal) XXX, N.S., Pt. II, 121, 122, 



226 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


was launched at Bombay late in 1839, and was presently put into 
service under Commander Henry Ormsby, who had taken part 
in one of the earliest surveys of Mesopotamia. The Victoria w’as 
the fastest vessel of the Navy, and, because of her equipment, the 
best passenger steamer. Another Bombay vessel, the Auckland , 
of 946 tons and 220 horsepower, was launched in January, 1840. 
In April, the steam-sloop Cleopatra arrived from England, in 
charge of Commander Robert Moresby. In June another 
English-built ship, the steam frigate Sesostris, 876 tons and 220 
horsepower, also in charge of Commander Moresby, made her 
appearance at Bombay. An iron steamer, the Nemesis , 700 tons 
and 120 horsepower, built at Liverpool, was sent out in March, 
1840, and upon her arrival in India was employed in the Chinese 
War as were some of the others. 58 Still other fine vessels were 
added from time to time. 50 

In 1838 the Court of Directors determined to place their whole 
Navy on a steam basis as soon as new vessels could be acquired. 
Of the new steamers built, some were constructed with a view to 
constant service on the Bombay-Suez line, but all of them were 
adapted for duty as armed naval vessels whenever need arose. 
This naturally handicapped their utility as packet steamers, and 
there were few regrets when the relatively luxurious vessels of a 
new steam concern, constructed altogether for peace-time work 
in conveying mails and passengers, made their appearance within 
a few years east of Suez. Yet to the vessels of the Company’s 
Indian Navy, sailing ships and steam ships alike, belongs the 
credit of opening up and partially developing the shorter pas¬ 
sages to Europe, and without this pioneering work it is difficult to 
see how a private enterprise could readily have been successful. 

A large part of the effectiveness of the overland route de¬ 
pended on the passage through Egypt. How this portion of the 
route, which gave the name “ overland ” to the whole, could best 
be opened was the source of much perplexity from the first. 
Neither the British Government nor the East India Company 
cared to risk becoming involved in political complications with 
the Pasha on the one hand or the Turkish Government on the 
other under any sort of guarantee whatever. Hence this very 
important link in what was otherwise becoming an official route 

68 Low, of. tit., II, 135, 1365 Asiatic Journal, XXXII, N.S., Pt. I, 206; III, 
3d Ser., 355—358; Pari. Paf., 184.3, No. 3 0I > P- i. The original Semiramis was 
converted into a coal vessel in 1842, and stationed at Aden. Her engines, however, 
were installed in a new teak ship built at Bombay and also christened the Semiramis 

59 See Asiatic Journal , XXXIV, N.S., Pt. II, 295. 



ESTABLISHMENT OF THE OVERLAND ROUTE 227 

had to be left open to private enterprise. Such mails and de¬ 
spatches as had been sent through Egypt prior to 1835 had been 
carried, with a few exceptions, by private messengers employed 
either by large business houses in London or by the Bombay 
Government under the protection of the English Consul in Egypt. 
But after the Company’s announcement of the new steamers to 
be placed on the Red Sea line, there was evidently room for more 
private enterprise. 

One of the first to sense a great opportunity in the situation 
was Thomas Waghorn. All of Waghorn’s early projects for 
commercial lines of steamships to ply between Great Britain and 
India first by the Cape route and later by way of the Red Sea had 
come to nothing. Still, he had not been idle, having served on a 
number of occasions as a messenger between the two countries, 
and he had lost none of his enthusiasm for the Suez route. 60 
Within a few weeks from the time of the announcement of new 
steamers to be built for the Suez line, Waghorn authorized the 
public announcement that he was about to proceed to Egypt and 
establish himself there as an agent for the transporting of mails, 
goods and passengers between Alexandria, Cairo, and Suez, so 
that a definite schedule might be maintained between England 
and India at all times. According to his plan, mails confided to 
his care would be carried through Egypt by special messenger and 
either embarked at Suez in vessels of the Indian Navy or sent in 
“ country ” boats to Mocha, Aden, or Socotra, and thence as op¬ 
portunity afforded to India. 

But in a field having such bright prospects, Waghorn was not 
left long without competitors. Two Englishmen, Messrs. Hill 
and Raven, had already established themselves at Cairo and had 
built there a hotel primarily for transient travellers by the over¬ 
land passage. Presently they extended their service and arranged 
for the transportation of these travellers and their belongings 
across the desert between Cairo and Suez. In addition, almost 
simultaneously with Waghorn, they began the construction of a 
hotel at Suez, where previously there had been no accommodation 
of any kind, except such as travellers might provide for them¬ 
selves. It was a matter of some importance to remain in Suez 
as brief a time as possible, because of the heat, dust, and general 
dreariness of the place. According to a contemporary traveller — 

60 A lengthy petition from Mr. Waghorn, in which he condemned Chesney’s 
Euphrates venture and called attention to the greater advantages of the Suez route, 
was read in the House of Commons on 3 July. — Ibid., XVII, N.S., Pt. II, 276. 
See C. Rochfort Scott, Rambles in Egypt and Qandia ... (2 vols., London, 1837) 
II, 80 ff. 



228 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


The present arrangements for making it the point of com¬ 
munication between Europe and India by means of steam- 
navigation on the Red Sea, may probably give to it an 
impulse and somewhat enlarge its population; but it can never 
become anything more than a mere place of passage, which 
both the traveler and the inhabitant will hasten to leave as 
soon as possible. . . Not a garden, not a tree, not a trace 
of verdure, not a drop of fresh water; all the water with 
which Suez is supplied for personal use being brought from 
the fountain Naba, three hours distant across the Gulf, and 
so brackish as to be scarcely drinkable. 01 

The comfort of travellers across the eighty-odd miles of 
desert lying between Cairo and Suez was materially increased 
after 1836 by the efforts of the Bombay Steam Committee. This 
group, upon finding that their object of fully establishing the 
Suez iine was about to be carried out by the Government, were 
for a time at a loss as to what disposition to make of their steam 
fund with its 1,10,907 rupees. In December, 1836, at the behest 
of the British Consul at Cairo, Mr. Alfred S. Walne, they voted 
to apply the fund toward the improvement of the overland 
passage through Egypt. 82 Shortly afterward, the Committee, 
with the approval of the Bombay Government, despatched a Col. 
Barr to Egypt to arrange for the building of a series of way 
stations in the Egyptian desert where through passengers might 
pause for rest and refreshment. Col. Barr found an influential 
patron in the English Consul-General, Col. Patrick Campbell. 
Upon the completion of plans for the highway through the desert, 
the Consul-General addressed a long official letter to the Pasha 
requesting permission to erect the desired structures. 03 
, Pending the receipt of the expected answer to this communica¬ 
tion, arrangements were entered into with Messrs. Hill and 
Raven, whereby they were to furnish carriages, baggage wagons, 
and other equipment for the desert journey, and have them 
always in readiness at either end of the line. The Steam Com¬ 
mittee undertook the initial expense of this arrangement, commis- 

. 81 R°binson, of. cit., I, 47. Anon., A Handbook for India and Egypt, Com- 
f,nsm S 'the Narrative of a Journey from Calcutta to England . . . and Hints for 
the Guidance of Passengers by that and other Overland Routes . . . (London, 1841), 
said (p. 285): “The wretchedness of Suez has often been described, but never in 
terms too severe; the hotels belonging to the rival agents, Mr. Waghorn and Messrs. 
Hill and Raven, are both uncomfortable,” 

y y 97/4081 Report b y Walne t0 Palmerston, 6 June, 1847; Asiatic Journal, 

XXIII, N,$., Pt. II, 34, 35, 

63 Asiatic Journal, XXVII, N.S., Pt. II, tj; W. H. Yates, The Modern History 
and Condition of Egyft ... (2 vols., London, I, 500-505. 



ESTABLISHMENT OF THE OVERLAND ROUTE 229 

sioning Messrs. Hill and Raven to act as agents for a period of 
five years at a contract price of fiooo. 0 ' 1 For an additional sum 
the agents also contracted to erect the desert stations. These 
were to consist of five buildings, four of them small, and one, in 
the center of the desert, of the character of a hotel, with subsidiary 
servants’ quarters, stables, and the like. An expansion of this 
service was contemplated later in case of its success. 05 It was 
originally projected that these accommodations, exclusive of food 
and drink, and including lodging at Messrs. Hill and Raven’s 
Suez hotel, should be free to overland passengers. The large 
expense involved in the plan, however, necessitated the charging 
of nominal rates to all travellers who accepted the conduct of 
Messrs. Hill and Raven, the whole service being, of course, op¬ 
tional. It was estimated that when this plan was fully in opera¬ 
tion, as it was intended to be by 1838, the desert trip could be 
made in about 24 hours, with only about 20 hours of actual 
travelling. 00 

Under these conditions a miniature transportation war devel¬ 
oped between Waghorn and Messrs. Hill and Raven. Whereas 
the latter were the official agents for the Bombay Steam Com¬ 
mittee, Waghorn was the accredited agent of the British Post 
Office. 07 Moreover, his service extended all the way through 
Egypt, whereas Messrs. Hill and Raven operated the desert line 
only. A traveller might surrender himself at either Suez or 
Alexandria to a representative of Waghorn’s concern, and, theo¬ 
retically at least, relinquish all feeling of responsibility for bag¬ 
gage or means of conveyance until he had again safely boarded 
an out-going steamer. For this service, however, Waghorn 
exacted fees totalling about £13, as against £6 collected by the 
rival line for the desert trip only. But travellers by either agency 
were invariably inconvenienced by the operations of the other. 
Waghorn’s clients were not permitted to use the desert way sta¬ 
tions, or even to procure water at these stopping places, but Wag¬ 
horn was frequently able to retaliate by hiring all of the draft 
and carriage animals to be had in Cairo or Suez and thus to em¬ 
barrass his rivals by temporarily monopolizing the means of trans¬ 
portation. 08 

m F.O. 97/408, C. A. Murray to Lord Palmerston. Barr was severely criticized 
by Walne for placing 1 control of the desert station houses in the hands of a com¬ 
petitive concern when they should have been opened to the travelling public. 

65 Asiatic Journal , XXVII, N.S., Pt. II, 16. 

88 Handbook for India and Egypt . . . p. 261. 

07 Asiatic Journal , XXIII, N.S., Pt. II, 162. 

88 Ibid., XXX, N.S., Pt. II, 18, 19 j ibid., XXXI, N.S., Pt. II, 349, 3505 ibid., 
XXXII, N.S., Pt. I, 22-30. The whole expense of a trip from London to Cal- 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


230 

The open rivalry of Waghorn and Hill continued until 1841, 
when the latter, who possessed more financial backing, won out. 
Waghorn was obliged to give up his independent passenger 
agency and coalesce with Hill, whose concern was thereafter 
known as J. R. Hill and Co. 60 The enlarged concern proceeded 
to improve their service by bringing out from England a small 
iron steamboat, the Jack o’ Lantern , which plied on the Nile 
between Boulac, the port of Cairo, and Atfeh, at the junction of 
the Nile and the Mahmoudie Canal. A small independent com¬ 
pany which had maintained horse-drawn track boats on the Canal 
between Atfeh and Alexandria for some time was purchased by 
Hill and Co. in 1842, giving them complete control of the entire 
line from Alexandria to Suez for the time being. 70 This period 
of monopoly, however, was short lived. The Company, which 
had never prospered in spite of heavy charges, managed to survive 
the undermining activities of the new and powerful Peninsular 
and Oriental Steam Navigation Company for some two years, but 
they presently succumbed to a new monopoly created by the 
Pasha. The new concern, known as the Egyptian Transit Com¬ 
pany, bought out Hill and Co. in 1843, and from that time 
until the opening of the Suez Canal the transit through Egypt 
in most respects was under the direct control of the Egyptian 
Government. 71 

The convenience of travellers was greatly augmented and the 
whole matter of maintaining regular steamship schedules was 
materially aided, by the completion in 1839 of a semaphoric tele¬ 
graph line from Suez to Cairo. Thereafter passengers for India 
sojourned in Cairo until their vessel was reported about ready to 
depart from Suez before they set out across the desert. 7 " The 
facilities for making the passage through Egypt still remained 
primitive and unsatisfactory for some years. Nearly every trav¬ 
eller spoke with disapprobation of the arrangements provided. It 
was only after the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation 
Company had succeeded in establishing their own steam lines on 
both sides of the Isthmus of Suez that the transit through Egypt 
was very greatly improved. 

Mehemet Ali had from the first taken a deep interest in the 


cutta by -way of Marseilles at this time was about £170, not an insignificant sum even 
to the wealthy official class and the “ globe trotters ” who patronized the line. 

69 Handbook for India and Egypt . . . p. 370. 

70 F.O. 97/408, C. A. Murray to Lord Palmerston. 

71 Report by A. S. Walne as transmitted by C. A. Murray, F.O. 97/408. 

72 Gallery of Illustration: The Route of the Overland Mail to India from 
Southampton to Calcutta (London, 1850), p. 255 Asiatic Journal , 3d Ser., II, 53-54. 



ESTABLISHMENT OF THE OVERLAND ROUTE 231 

various plans for closer contacts between England and India. 
Their realization, he foresaw, must inevitably bring his own 
country into new prominence and might be expected to afford new 
commercial opportunities and cultural influences. For these 
reasons he lent every encouragement to the development of the 
overland route through Egypt, which he would presumably al¬ 
ways be able to control, while he left nothing undone to make 
the alternative Euphrates route appear impracticable. 78 When 
steam vessels began to multiply on both sides of his country, he 
took counsel as to how he might best exploit the latent oppor¬ 
tunities of steam transit. He was at first content to give right of 
free passage through Egypt to both mails and passengers. But 
by 1834 he had evolved a plan, which, if promptly carried into 
effect, would have dispensed immediately with the need for both 
Mr. Waghorn and Mr. Hill 3 he had concluded to build a railway 
across Egypt from Alexandria to Suez by way of Cairo. This, he 
believed, would at once facilitate the transit through Egypt, 
greatly increase travel and transportation of goods and wares, and 
also yield a substantial revenue. 74 

The railway line was laid out by Galloway Bey, one of the 
several sons of Alexander Galloway, an Englishman, who had 
spent many years in Egypt engaged in engineering enterprises. 
Following the railway survey in 1834, Galloway Bey was com¬ 
missioned by the Pasha to go to England and secure from the 
English Government a formal approval of his (the Pasha’s) 
proposition of placing a tariff of 6 d. per mile for English goods 
on the first portion of the completed line, which would be about 
80 miles in length. Feeling confident that his proposal would be 
accepted, and that the Egyptian line would soon entirely replace 
that by the Cape not only for travel and communication, but for 
goods as well, he proceeded to place large orders with English 
firms for iron rails, ties, and other railway equipment, shipments 
of which were commenced in 1835. 75 

The prompt completion of a railway through Egypt, even 
under the auspices of the Pasha, must surely have given a great 
impetus to the completion of measures for regular monthly 
steam transit on the Suez line. The time required for crossing 
the country, which ordinarily averaged from eight to ten days, 

73 Sec above, pp. 165-166, passim. 

74 That he overlooked no opportunities to collect duties on foreign goods is 
indicated by the a Firman of the Sultan of Turkey to the Pasha of Egypt, relative 
to the execution in Egypt of the Treaties of Commerce between the Ottoman Porte 
and Great Britain,” of 24. Dec., 1835. — British and Foreign State Papers, XXIII, 
1291, 1292. 

75 Pari Pap., 1837, No. 539, Min. of Ev., pp. 63, 645 App. No. 2, p. 202. 



232 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

could thus be reduced to twenty-four or thirty hours. 70 By pro¬ 
viding express service, travellers and mails could readily avoid 
exposure to the plague, and the heat and other dangers of the 
desert journey could be very largely eliminated. Nevertheless, 
the British Government gave the Pasha’s proposal a wide berth. 
The guarantee of a minimum rate of duties on commercial articles 
in transit might, it was thought, be interpreted as a guarantee of 
the line itself. Considering the delicate balance of the political 
situation in the Near East, the unfriendly relations existing be¬ 
tween the Pasha and the Porte, and the necessity of keeping on 
good terms with the Sultan’s Government at all events, caused 
the British authorities largely to ignore the proposition. Lacking 
British sanction of his enterprise, the Pasha considered it impru¬ 
dent to continue with the construction of the line. The iron 
rails, being unloaded in Egypt, were left there to rust, the wooden 
ties were piled up and left to rot, while the railway became, for 
the time being, only a subject for speculation. Some twenty years 
were to elapse before the project came to fruition. 

For two years after the adoption of the cooperative plan of 
communication of 1837, the Board of Control and the Directors 
of the East India Company anxiously watched the operation of 
the colossal experiment. They could not remain Jong in doubt as 
to the effective character of the results. In spite of the fact that 
a tremendous expense had been undertaken, the first cost alone of 
the steamers in operation having amounted to nearly £213,000,” 
the returns from private mails and passengers were rapidly 
mounting, while the estimated benefit to business interests in 
England and India more than compensated for the outlay. That 
the service was effective was demonstrated beyond doubt by the 
complaints which arose whenever the slightest interruption oc¬ 
curred in the transit. Indeed, a few business men grumbled that 
it was too effective, since sight drafts sent out by the overland 
route calculated on the usual six months’ credit frequently reached 
the purchaser of goods before the goods, sent around the Cape, 
had been heard of. Bills had thus occasionally to be paid before 
the goods purchased were seen. This difficulty was soon reme¬ 
died, however, by the simple expedient of extending the time of 
collection from six to nine months. 78 

76 Pari. Pap., 1837, No. 539, Min. of Ev., p. 64; London Times, 2 Oct., 1835; 
Asiatic Journal, XVIII, N.S., Pt. II, 193. One of the factors which contributed to 
the suspension of the railway project was the death at Alexandria on July 3, 1836, 
of Galloway Bey, who had been an intimate adviser of the Pasha and who had urged 
the building of the road. — Ibid., XXI, N.S., Pt. II, j 3 . 

77 Pari. Pap., 1843, No. 301, p. 1. 

78 AA“tic Journal, XXV, N.S., Pt. II, 140. Cf. Pari. Pap., i8ji. No. 372, 

pp. 107, 108. ’ 



ESTABLISHMENT OF THE OVERLAND ROUTE 233 

Travellers who made the trip to or from India by the overland 
route, almost invariably preferred it to that by way of the Cape, 
although it was considerably more expensive and the passage 
through Egypt was frequently attended with discomforts. The 
Government, too, had ample reason to feel gratified at the speed 
with which despatches could be exchanged during the series of 
hostile manoeuvres which filled the years after 1837. The issue 
with Persia in 1837-1838 was more readily terminated, danger 
from the Syrian crisis of 1838—1841 more easily guarded against, 
and the war with China much more effectively conducted because 
of the shortening of time-distances with the East. 

One of the last steps in establishing the overland route was 
taken when a Post Office Convention between Britain and France 
was signed on May 10, 1839. This document, providing for 
a the conveyance through France of the Correspondence of the 
East Indies with England, and vice versa,” outlined in detail the 
reciprocal agreements which had first been discussed two years 
earlier.' 9 This document served as the basis for a series of other 
Post Office Conventions throughout the remainder of the cen¬ 
tury, and ranks with treaties of political alliance in its influence 
for peace. It was drawn up on the very eve of the dangerous 
political crisis growing out of the conquests of Mehemet Ali, and 
there can be little doubt that the understanding reached between 
the two countries at Paris in May, 1839, resting on a real need of 
cooperative action, exerted its moderating influences to prevent 
an open clash of the two Powers. 

A few weeks afterward, on July 3, a measure was taken which 
may be considered the final act in the establishment of rapid and 
permanent postal communication with the East by the overland 
route. On this date the Court of Directors, with the approval of 
the Admiralty, Treasury, and Post Office Departments, sent to 
both the Bombay and Supreme Indian Governments a list of 
“ Regulations for the Establishment of a Monthly Communica¬ 
tion with India.” 80 This set of instructions, based partly on the 
recent Post Office Convention with France, provided for the 
despatch of mails at either end of the long line once in every calen¬ 
dar month, gave the schedule to be observed at Suez, Alexandria, 
and Malta, and provided for all reasonable eventualities. 

79 Brit, and For. St. Pap. } XXVII, 1004-1012. See I. G. J. Hamilton, An 
Outline of Postal History and Practise with a History of the Post Office of India 
(Calcutta, 1910), p. 149 j T. A. Curtis, State of the Question of Steam- 
Communication with India ma the Red Sea . . . (London, 1839)5 Philo-Johannes, 
A Modest Defence of the East-India Company's Management of Steam- 
Communication with India (London, 1839). 

80 Park Pap. } 1843, No. 301, pp. 2, 3. 



234 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

Thus was completed, the first definite move in the bringing to¬ 
gether of East and West. It had required much enterprise at 
both ends of the line to bring about its consummation, and still 
the pight to use it depended on the good will of the Ottoman 
Porte arftd the cooperation of the feudatory government of Egypt. 
Yet it functioned well and regularly for purposes of communica¬ 
tion. Seme fifteen years had been required for this establishment 
since the first tangible step was taken, years characterized by a 
vast lot of speculation, promotion, controversy, exploration, and 
failure, but a definite beginning had been achieved. The success 
of the line to Bombay was but a greater argument for a service 
which would embrace Madras and Calcutta as well, yet not those 
communities alone. European interests in Singapore and Sydney 
were already clamoring for the extension of steam service to 
satisfy their growing needs. Already ephemeral “ Steam Com¬ 
mittees w were being formed and steam navigation companies 
projected. Moreover, a brief experience with monthly service 
sufficed to show that whereas it was both more serviceable and 
more profitable than a quarterly scheme, a fortnightly service 
would be more practicable still. Beyond that, although in 1840 
few could see so clearly into the future, a regular weekly com¬ 
munication would be demanded, first to India, then to more out¬ 
lying parts of the Empire. But even this would not suffice. The 
electric telegraph and submarine cable could instantly bridge 
distance, and the thought was father to the deed. Even here the 
elimination of time-distance has not paused. 

The opening of the line to India by way of the Red Sea de¬ 
pended to a considerable extent on the success of the steam engine. 
Despite the funds subscribed, the active propaganda, and the 
voluble arguments of enthusiasts, the development of the over¬ 
land route kept even pace with the mechanical evolution of the 
means of transportation. The history of this first stage in the 
opening of shorter lines to the East is due to the high pressure 
engine and improved steamship design, as well as to ready capital, 
large business interests, and extensive advertising. The further 
development of the overland route and subsidiary lines of transit 
epitomize the history of still other improvements. During the 
next fifteen years the steam engine continued to improve, the 
steamship was more scientifically propelled, the railway became 
a greater contributing factor to the reduction of long distances, 
and the electric telegraph played a much more important role. 
The days of the submarine cable, the screw propeller, the internal 
combustion engine and wireless telegraphy were still to come. 

Still, in the development and application of mechanical ap- 



M E I) l T ER R A N E A N 


SEA 


^ jS' Bourlos, 


>A* 

<?y 


fa£^{h%,mf\ TW^ 

j v vJ7f% v. 

.i/i’ i» <i• ': v^Cc- - Attend i ' i Menzaleh 1 


%{ ' J t =r% _ POP.! SAID 


Menzaleh 



A 'at run 
** Ink* $ 


L I J] Y A N 


DESERT 


El Kantara 


'' . V7/ >gazig ,Smm jLake 

t N-" v /W* m,Ur Cmal 

\V it \ mA " 1 '"' 1 — l T r —~ *- {f^wBitter 

)'ov \ \ r\k^^ 'k^^x^Lakei 

^Bou f 9 

Gi 2 eS&* IR “. . 

f Old Cairo.. ^i,;, ^^'sUeM i 

Memphis^ la^'^""'', ‘%^/^'''% > 

W : ? Cl W' MHi'.vv' V f 


MAP OF LOWER EGYPT 

Showing 

Overland, Railway and 
Canal Routes 


yo 

,m " 

,,tn ^ 


w' >// Vi. 




ESTABLISHMENT OF THE OVERLAND ROUTE 235 

pliances, the human element is everywhere present. Necessity 
is the mother of invention. Only as needs and stresses developed 
were new scientific principles sought. Only as these were dis¬ 
covered could they be applied; and the methods of application 
were always in keeping with human interests. At times the hes¬ 
itation, the petty quibbling, the foolish errors so intimately asso¬ 
ciated with the opening of the new line of communication between 
London and Bombay seem strangely futile, yet this is but an 
inevitable feature of the adaptation of new and untried forces to 
the filling of a great human need 5 a feature of the trial and error 
method by which all revolutionary processes are carried out. The 
next fifteen years after the definite opening of the overland 
passage were also characterized by the promotion of doubtful 
enterprises, conflicting propaganda, intrigue and bitterness among 
those who wished an extension of lines of communication. Yet 
it was also a period of progress. The steam service was speeded 
up, steam vessels grew larger, more seaworthy and more numer¬ 
ous, and for the traveller a long voyage was no longer the tre¬ 
mendous ordeal it had been but a few years earlier. And at the 
end of the period lines of commercial transportation were prepar¬ 
ing to follow those of communication witj* the cutting through 
of that single great barrier, theTsthmus o#Suez. 



CHAPTER X 


THE COMPREHENSIVE PLAN OF COMMUNICATION 

S TEAM LINES in European and in Asiatic waters were 
phenomenally successful in eliminating time-distances and 
in drawing West and East together. By the middle of 
the nineteenth century the indispensability of the overland route 
could no longer be denied even by the most skeptical. But while 
steam vessels arriving in Egyptian waters annually became larger 
and more powerful, increasing in the comfort of their appoint¬ 
ments and in their independence of the elements, one great 
problem remained to be solved before this route could compete 
commercially with the Cape route or realize its full development 
as an artery of communication. This problem was concerned 
with the passage through Egypt. Mails, passengers, and goods 
continued to suffer the delays and discomforts consequent upon 
having to pursue a tortuous course between the Mediterranean 
and Red Seas.’ This portion of the route to the East had failed 
to keep pace with improvements elsewhere because of both politi¬ 
cal and material obstacles to facile transit. 

Prior to the formation of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam 
Navigation Company, relatively little had been accomplished in 
the way of simplifying or systematizing the passage through 
Egypt. 1 A series of station houses had been built in the desert 
between Cairo and Suez in 1838, but they were pitifully inade¬ 
quate from the start because of the rapidly growing number of 
passengers travelling by the overland route. 2 The hotels which 
had been established by rival promoters at Suez were small and 

1 Gallery of Illustration: The Route of the Overland Mail to India from 
Southampton to Calcutta, pp. 7, 8, ff. This pamphlet was prepared by Thos. Grieve, 
Capt. Moresby, and others connected with the P. & 0 . 

Journal, XXXV, N.S., Pt. II, 283—2845 Arthur Anderson, Com¬ 
munication with India, China, etc., via Egyft (London, [1843]). Not all overland 
passengers crossed from Suez to Cairo. An alternative line provided for the passage 
of tourists over the hundred miles between Cosseir on the Red Sea and Thebes on 
the Nile. P. & 0 . vessels for a time stopped at Cosseir in going to and from Suez. 
This line never became a main highway, however, and stops at Cosseir were dis¬ 
continued after a few years. 



COMPREHENSIVE PLAN OF COMMUNICATION 237 

dirty, and did little to remove from that dismal spot its early 
reputation of being the most desolate place on earth. Some at¬ 
tempts had been made to provide for the transportation of pas¬ 
sengers and luggage across the desert and between Cairo and 
Alexandria, but it was only after 1840 that springless carriages 
and vans replaced the somewhat less convenient donkeys and 
camels formerly provided for conveyance. 3 One of the chief 
improvements made during the early period of steam communica¬ 
tion was the opening up and improvement of the Mahmoudie 
Canal by Mehemet Ali between 1819 and 1837. The canal, 
although little more than a wide ditch, provided a water com¬ 
munication between the port of Alexandria and the Nile at Atfeh, 
a distance of forty miles, and thus made unnecessary a difficult 
caravan or wagon ride at this end of the j ourney. However, 
the equipment at first placed on the canal consisted of small track- 
boats drawn by donkeys, boats which were not only open to the 
elements and altogether comfortless, but were generally swarm¬ 
ing with vermin. The slow sailing vessels on the Nile between 
Atfeh and Boulac, the port of Cairo, were little better. The 
concern of British and Indian authorities in opening the overland 
route had been the acceleration of the mails. It remained for a 
private corporation to undertake to improve the facilities for 
passenger transportation. 

The passage through Egypt underwent a series of mild im¬ 
provements with the beginning of the through service of the 
Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. In 1841, 
as a result of the visit to Egypt of Arthur Anderson, one of 
the founders of the Company, another steamer was placed on the 
Nile and improved trackboats on the Mahmoudie Canal for the 
simultaneous accommodation of passengers going in both direc¬ 
tions. 4 Other river steamers were put under construction for the 
same purpose. Late in the year 1841, after the termination of 
hostilities in the Levant, Anderson was able to conclude an ar¬ 
rangement with Mehemet Ali whereby the track across the desert 
between Cairo and Suez should be mended and cleared of loose 
stones. The Pasha also promised special protection to goods and 

3 Sec Charles Dickens, Household Words: A Weekly Journal, Sat., 17 Aug., 
1850 (Vol. I, No. 21), p. 499, “ The Life and Labours of Lieutenant Waghorn 
George Parbury, Hand-Book for India and Egypt, Comprising the Narrative of a 
Journcv from Calcutta to England . . . (2d ed., London, 1842). 

* Asiatic Journal, XXXV, N.S., Pt. II, 2845 ibid., XXXVI, N.S., Pt. II, 241, 242. 
The Cairo, which was sent out in 1841 to supplement the Lotus already plying on 
the Nile, was an iron vessel, described as “ a remarkably elegant vessel, similar in 
appearance to those steamers called the Watermen, running between London and 
Woolwich.” The Cairo accommodated a hundred passengers. 



23 8 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

passengers in transit. 5 Bonded packages were not to be opened. 
The Company was thereafter permitted to use any kind of vehicle 
for the transportation service, to build depots and magazines, and 
to place their own steamers under the British flag on both the 
Nile and the Mahmoudie Canal. 6 In consideration of these 
concessions, the Company engaged its Egyptian representatives, 
Messrs. Briggs and Company, to keep a record of all goods taken 
through Egypt and to pay annually a transit duty of one-half 
per cent ad valorem , instead of the previous three per cent. The 
Company, in turn, added the amount of this duty to its transporta¬ 
tion charges on goods sent in either direction by private shippers. 
This agreement was reenforced and supplemented by a code of 
regulations published by the orders of the Pasha on May 13, 

1843d 

In consequence of these improvements, it was next proposed to 
revive the project of the Egyptian Railway, particularly that 
section from Cairo to Suez, which had remained in abeyance since 
the death of the Pasha’s engineer, Galloway Bey, and the simul¬ 
taneous rise of political difficulties, in 1835. Mehemet Ali again 
signified his willingness to construct a line between Cairo and 
Suez, a distance of about 100 miles, 8 at his own expense, and 
equip the line for passenger as well as commercial transportation, 
if he were assured by the British Post Office of a definite payment 
for the carriage of British mails. This proposal, which had the 
support of the P. and O. Company as well as many smaller con¬ 
cerns operating in or through Egypt, had much to recommend it. 
A laborious journey of twenty-four to twenty-eight hours would 
be reduced to a comparatively comfortable trip of only a few 
hours, and better steamship schedules could be maintained both 
in the Mediterranean and in eastern waters. 

The plan enjoyed but a brief day in the limelight, however. 
Mehemet Ali did give orders for the resumption of work on the 
road. The carrying out of the plan was conditioned, however, 

5 The first part, at least, of this agreement was not carried out. See John 
Alexander Galloway, Observations on the Proposed Improvements in the Overland 
Route via Egypt, with re?mrks on the Ship Canal, the Boulac Canal, and the Suez 
Railroad (London, 1844), pp. 5, 6. 

6 F.O. 97/408, Murray to Palmerston, 6 June, 1847. A steam tug with a screw 
propeller was used on the Mahmoudie Canal, one of the first instances where this 
type of propulsion was commercially employed. 

7 Asiatic Journal, XXXVI, N.S., Pt. II, 323, 398} ibid., 3d Ser., I, 327; Ander¬ 
son, op. cit., pp. 22-265 [Thomas Waghorn], Messrs. Waghorn & Company^ 
Overland Guide to India (London, 1844), pp. 63, 64. 

8 The anonymous writer of the pamphlet, On the Communications between 
Europe and India through Egypt (London, 1846), insisted (pp. 45, 46) that the 
railway would not need to be more than 90 miles in length, and that there were no 
engineering difficulties in the way, in contrast with those inherent in a ship canal. 



COMPREHENSIVE PLAN OF COMMUNICATION 239 

by the Pasha’s requirement that “ the British Government agree 
to certain arrangements for the future payment for conveying the 
mails, when the railroad is finished.” 9 J. A. Galloway, the 
English engineer in charge, immediately took up the matter with 
Sir Robert Peel in October, 1843, who referred the subject to the 
Foreign Secretary, Lord Aberdeen. Late in October, Aberdeen 
replied stating that “Her Majesty’s Government would direct 
the Consul-General to give his countenance to the undertak¬ 
ing.” 10 This was not enough to satisfy the Pasha, who was 
already under fire, and he insisted that he be guaranteed a revenue 
of a piastre (about 2 \d.') per letter on the mails transported 
through Egypt. But at this point the British Cabinet balked, 
unwilling to endanger the recent arrangement concerning Egypt 
by official guarantees of any kind. 

Meanwhile the French had not been idle. Representatives in 
Egypt of the French Government protested vigorously against 
the prosecution of a plan which would rival the canal already 
projected by French capitalists. 11 The old Pasha therefore re¬ 
luctantly abandoned for the second time a scheme which he be¬ 
lieved would at once benefit Egypt and Great Britain without 
seriously endangering the interests of other countries. 12 Thus 
rebuffed in one of his favorite projects, Mehemet Ali set about 
accomplishing at least a part of his object, that of profiting from 
the essential nature of the route through Egypt for the eastern 
mails. This had been uppermost in his mind ever since the open¬ 
ing of the overland route. 13 

The first step taken in the new plan of action was the 
removal from the Peninsular and Oriental Company of many of 
the exclusive privileges which had been granted them less than 
three years before. In 1844, the Company sent out to Egypt a 
new steamer, the Delta , to replace one of the older steamers 
navigating the Nile. The British Government was expected to 
give support in securing permission to operate the new vessel on 
the Nile, but it refused to do so, pending the outcome of negotia¬ 
tions on a new series of contracts being prepared for the carriage 
of mails to the East. The Pasha, scenting a favorable oppor¬ 
tunity for beginning a series of encroachments on the monopolies 

9 Galloway, of. ciL, p. 13. 

10 Ibid., p. 13. This instruction was actually issued. — F.O. 97/408, C. A. 
Murray to Lord Palmerston, 4 Nov., 1846. 

11 Asiatic Journal, 3d Ser., Ill, 4x7; ibid., IV, 2075 Messrs. Waghorn & Com~ 
fanyh 0*uerland< Guide to India, pp. 72-73. 

12 London Times, 29 Jan., 18455 Asiatic Journal , 3d Ser., IV, 439. 

10 F.O. 97/408, A a Separate and Confidential ” communication from Murray 
to Palmerston, 4 Nov., 1846. 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


240 

which British concerns had acquired in the transit arrangements, 
thereupon refused a license for the use of the Delta on the Nile, 
stating that he was contemplating a complete reorganization of 
the transit. 1 ' 1 

Shortly afterward a new monopoly was created under license 
from the Pasha known as the Egyptian Transit Company. The 
circumstances surrounding its origin do not appear to have become 
wholly known in England at any time, but within a few years its 
character was largely discovered. The Transit Company proved 
to be a private monopoly, chartered and financed by the Pasha, 
and headed by two Englishmen who had already, in 1843, bought 
out the desert transit business of Messrs. Hill and Company. 1 *’ 
These men were given sole rights of transporting mails, passen¬ 
gers and goods through Egypt, their monopoly of transport being 
supported by proclamations of the Pasha that no person might 
pass through the country except in the conveyances belonging to 
the Transit Company. 1 " At the same time, the privileges granted 
to the P. and O. Company in September, 1841, for employing 
their boats on the Nile and the Mahmoudie Canal, were revoked, 
and they were asked to state the conditions under which they 
would be willing to transfer their somewhat extensive equipment 
to the new concern. The Company refused to consider disposing 
of their equipment, and attempted to carry on their own transit 
between Alexandria and Cairo by chartering their new and com¬ 
modious steamer Delta to the Agent of the East India Company 
so that the mail service might be continued under privileges long 
possessed by that Company. This scheme was immediately 
thwarted by the Pasha, however, and the steam outfit of the P. 
and O. Company remained idle at Alexandria for well over a 
year. When at last it became sufficiently obvious that, even in 
consequence of the new postal contracts awarded the P. and O. 
Company in 1845, the right of navigating the Nile would not be 
renewed, negotiations for the sale of the entire equipment of the 
Company in Egypt were begun and eventually consummated. 17 

14 Ibid,, Letter from Briggs & Co. to the P. and O. Company, 26 Get., 1844. 
The Pasha had never conceded to the P. and O. Company the right of navigating 
the Nile, but had merely issued licenses to that effect for specified vessels, a privilege 
which might be withdrawn at any time. It was argued that he would have stopped 
the transit altogether if he had dared, but the author has found no evidence of such 
a desire. 

15 See (Anon.), On the Communications between Europe and India through 
Egypt) PP* 29”33 5 F.O. 97/408, Murray to Palmerston, 6 June, 18475 John A. 
Galloway, Observations on the Proposed Improvements in the Overland Route (1844). 

16 Asiatic Journal^ 3d Ser., IV, 440 j Illustrated London News, 8 Nov., 1845, 
p. 292. 

17 F.O. 97/408, Capt. John Lyons, E. I. Co. Agent, to the Secret*Committee of 
the East India Co., 8 Oct., 184 6 . The last of the equipment was not turned over 
to the Pasha until February, 1848. 



COMPREHENSIVE PLAN OF COMMUNICATION 241 

Only the British mails remained free from the Pasha’s direct 
control under the new system. These still were conveyed through 
Egypt by Post Office agents under the care of the British Consul- 
General and with the protection of the Egyptian Government. 18 
In 1845, however, a Postal Convention between the British and 
Egyptian Governments was made necessary because of the altered 
state of the Egyptian transit. This Convention, which was to 
last for five years, was based on the Anglo-French arrangements 
for the transit of British and Indian mails along the line between 
Marseilles and Channel ports. By this new arrangement, Me- 
hemet Ali was permitted to levy a tariff on letters and newspapers 
at so much per pound, the conveyance of mails through Egypt 
thereafter to be at the Pasha’s expense. 19 Passengers continued 
to pay for their passage through Egypt such monopolistic rates as 
the Transit Company chose to levy. In accordance with a promise 
made by the Pasha, commercial wares transported through Egypt 
by the Transit Company passed at the low rate of ad valorem. 
The Transit Company could care for only very small quantities 
of goods, however, and'on such as were transported by other 
means the Pasha collected duties at 3%, the rate prescribed by 
the Balta-Liman Convention of 1838 between Great Britain and 
the Porte. 20 Thus, with the exercise of considerable patience and 
judgment, Mehemet Ali largely succeeded in carrying out one of 
his dearest proj ects, that of controlling as well as encouraging the 
use of the route through Egypt. Only one more measure re¬ 
mained to be taken, that of removing the monopoly granted to 
the Egyptian Transit Company. It had served its turn. It had 
averted open hostility which might otherwise have followed the 
termination of the licenses of the Peninsular and Oriental Com¬ 
pany because the new beneficiaries of the Pasha’s favor were 
Englishmen. 

About the beginning of the year 1846 the Egyptian Transit 
Company was broken up with the assistance of the Pasha’s French 
advisers, and the transit business was made a branch of the gov¬ 
ernmental administration. 21 Frenchmen were appointed to take 
charge of the details of the operation of the transit, replacing the 
English concessionaires of the previous Transit Company. This 
was a considerable blow to British pride, and there was no little 

18 Ibid.y H. Johnson, Packet Agent at Alexandria, to Col. Maberly, iz Aug., 
and 2 Oct., 1846. No especial provision was made in the Postal Convention for 
the mails to be accompanied, however. See ibid.y Mux-ray to Palmerston, 6 June, 
1847. 

19 Asiatic Journal } 3d Ser., IV, 439, 440. 

20 F.O. 97/408, Murray to Palmerston, 6 June, 18475 Report of Consul A. S. 
Walne. 

21 F.O. 97/408, Murray to Palmerston, 4 Nov., 1846, 6 June, 18475 J. Charles- 
Roux, L y Isthme et le Canal de Suez , I, 185. 



242 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

grumbling at home at the policy of the Government which per¬ 
mitted this most essential link in the chain of communications 
with the East to come into the hands of those hostile to British 
interests. “ In spite of the importance of rapid communication 
with India, and in spite of the example of Austria and France, who 
have occupied half the route to India with their steamers, both 
the British Government and the East India Company persist in 
neglecting the route through Egypt,” complained one writer." 2 

These events, following hard upon numerous evidences of 
French hostility to English capital and English influence in 
Egypt, gave considerable concern to the British Government. 
Palmerston voiced his regrets that the steamers of the Peninsular 
and Oriental Company had to be turned over to Mehemet Ali, 23 
and instructed the Consul-General in Egypt, Mr. C. A. Murray, 
to use all of his influence to maintain the employment of British 
capital and personnel as far as possible in connection with the line 
of communications through Egypt. Murray was particularly 
instructed to keep alive the project of an Egyptian railway as a 
counterpoise to the canal scheme which was beginning to take on 
unpleasant proportions. 

Nevertheless, the immediate effects of the establishment of an 
Egyptian Transit Administration by Mehemet Ali were calculated 
to remove British apprehensions as far as possible. Facilities for 
passage, instead of becoming worse, became better. On both sec¬ 
tions of the line through Egypt, charges for passengers were 
reduced, not only below the prices charged by the Transit Com¬ 
pany, but even below those formerly charged by the Peninsular 
and Oriental Company. 24 The comfort and safety of passengers 
was studied, the equipment on both branches of the line through 
Egypt was constantly augmented, the number of desert station 
houses was^ doubled, and the road across the desert was greatly 
improved. 25 There remained some question as to the final dis¬ 
position of the desert station houses. At the time of their construc¬ 
tion in 1838 with the funds of the Bombay Steam Committee, it 
was understood that the Committee’s agent was to have sole right 
to govern their employment over a period of ten years. This right 

** 0n the Communications between Europe and India through Egypt p. 3. 

F.O. 97/408, H. U. Addington, of the Foreign Office, to Arthur Anderson, 

5 Feb., 1847. ’ 

** M ^rray to Palmerston, 6 June, 18475 report of Consul Alfred S. Walne. 

* ‘ 97 /408, Report of Consul A. S. Walne5 ibid. t Murray to Palmerston, 

6 June, 18475 Pari. Pap . 3 1851^ No. 349, p. 255 On the Communications between 
Europe and India through Egypt , pp. 29-335 F. W. Simms, England to 
Calcutta, by the Overland Route , m 1845 .. . (London, 1875)5 T. H. Usborne, 
A New Guide to the Levant . . . together with Tables of all the Mediterranean 
Steamers . . . (London, 1840). 



COMPREHENSIVE PLAN OF COMMUNICATION 243 

was then to be renewable upon formal application by the British 
Consul-General. Upon terminating the concession to the Egyp¬ 
tian Transit Company, Robert Thurburn, one of its founders, 
who also held a lease from the Bombay Steam Committee for the 
desert stations, was deprived of his right to control these 
stations. They were thereupon occupied by appointees of Me- 
hemet Ali without either explanation or compensation to the in¬ 
terested Bombay parties. There ensued a period of doubt as to 
what line of conduct should be pursued by the Bombay authorities, 
but as the desert transit was efficiently conducted under the new 
Transit Administration, the issue was allowed to lie dormant. 26 

In most respects the Transit Administration was a success. It 
replaced the separate establishments on the Nile and across the 
desert with a single unified system administered as a branch of 
the Egyptian Government. The number of passengers using the 
overland route in the first year after it was officially opened was 
275. By 1845 this had grown to 2100, and by 1847 it had in¬ 
creased to more than 3000. Transit equipment had been in¬ 
creased in proportion. In 1843 on ly 50 camels were employed 
in connection with the transit. In 1846, 2563 were in use. In 
addition to these 440 horses and 46 vans transported the passen¬ 
gers between Cairo and Suez. The Nile establishment had grown 
to four steamers, with three steam tugs and a number of track- 
boats in addition on the Mahmoudie Canal. 27 This arrangement, 
with some alterations and improvements as traffic increased and 
the Egyptian Railway became a reality, was not essentially altered 
until the opening of the Suez Canal, which made the overland 
route, as far as regular traffic through Egypt was concerned,^ a 
thing of the past. 28 Meanwhile the rapid increase in both mails 
and passengers through Egypt could but call further attention 
to the advantages which would inevitably accrue from the con¬ 
struction of some more modern and adequate means of convey¬ 
ance, a railway or a canal. 29 

26 F.O. 97/408, Murray to Palmerston, 6 June, 1847, Report of Consul A. S. 
Walne. 27 Ibid Murray to Palmerston, 6 June, 1847. 

28 For the details of the arrangements provided for passenger transportation 
through Egypt in 1854, see [Melville Grindlay], Hints for Travellers to India } 
China and Australia (3d ed., London, 1854), pp. 14-17* 

20 The year 1850 was marked by the death of Thomas Waghorn, one of the 
principal agitators for the opening and development of the overland route. His 
employments remained characteristic to the last? he repeatedly made test trips between 
England and 1 India and Egypt and England with mails or despatches, attempting to 
find the speediest route. After the failure of his transport service between Cairo 
and Suez, Waghorn set up in business as forwarding agent, and in 1848 he entered 
into partnership with Mr. George Wheatley. This arrangement is still represented 
by G, W. Wheatley & Co. of London. Many of Waghorn’s enterprises were under¬ 
taken at his own expense in the hope of repayment, and at the time of his death he 



244 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

One of the greatest handicaps to improvements in service on 
the overland route proved to be the very element which gave the 
greatest measure of stability to the establishment of the line in the 
beginning. This was the fact that the line was operated by de¬ 
partments of government. The operation of the line, in conse¬ 
quence, was subj ect to all the evils of bureaucracy, such as delay, 
lack of coordination, irresponsibility, carelessness, neglect, and 
bungling in general. Such evils were the more pronounced be¬ 
cause the steam service, instead of being unified under one de¬ 
partment of government, was sub j ect to the direction of several 
departments of more than one government. The European end 
of the line was subject to the whims of the Admiralty, the Post 
Office, the Treasury, and, in some respects, of the Foreign and 
Colonial Offices. The cooperation of the India Board and the 
Court of Directors was also required. The eastern end of the 
line was controlled by various departments of the Bombay Gov¬ 
ernment under instructions from the Supreme Government at 
Calcutta, which, in turn, were guided by despatches from the 
Court of Directors at home. The very essential Egyptian section 
of the line came under neither set of authorities and was the 
source of problems more or less baffling to both. The one great 
advantage in the governmental control and operation of the line 
lay in the unlimited financial backing thus supplied. No private 
corporations, however strong in capital, could have hoped to suc¬ 
ceed at the outset, when initial expenses were tremendously great, 
mistakes and disasters frequent, and income slight. 30 

However, once the line was in full operation and its value fully 
appraised, public sentiment veered strongly toward its continua¬ 
tion under private commercial management. Government was 
concerned mainly with the sending of despatches and very little 
with the economics of private business. It was content to de- 


was heavily in debt. One of his sisters is reported to have died in a London work- 
house, and another was rescued from a similar institution and given a small pension. 
Thus in some respects Waghorn was singularly a failure, due largely to his 
proclivity for making enemies. Some recognition had come before his death, how¬ 
ever. He was given the title of Lieutenant in 1842 by the Admiralty, and in the 
year before his death he had been granted a small pension by the East India Com¬ 
pany, only one quarterly instalment of which had been paid prior to his death. 
Waghorn, however, did succeed in establishing a legend 5 and if he failed to receive 
due recognition during his. life, the eulogies which have been lavished upon his 
memory have at least in part atoned. See Household Words: A Weekly Journal, 
I, 494-501 j Chatham and Rochester Observer, 8 March, 18845 Bombay Gazette, 28 
March, 1884. 

80 Asiatic Journal, 3d Ser., I, 325. The greater part of this expense was borne 
by the British Government. In 1838-1839 the net cost to the East India Company 
of the steam establishments on both sides of Egypt was £30,012. — Pari. Paf., 1840, 
No. 353, p. 3. 



COMPREHENSIVE PLAN OF COMMUNICATION 245 

velop slowly, keeping well behind the actual needs of the public. 
Private enterprise, on the other hand, found profit in keeping 
abreast of business conditions and in anticipating public needs. 
Government heads were satisfied with a single chain of steam 
communications, terminating at Falmouth or Southampton at one 
end and at Bombay on the other, disregarding the pleas of the 
other presidencies of India and the rising clamor of the growing 
British communities in China, the Straits, Australia, and New 
Zealand for more effective intercourse with the mother country. 
Private enterprise took cognizance of all of these fields of en¬ 
deavor. The history of the development of steam communication 
with the East after 1839, therefore, is the record of private 
initiative backed by government support supplanting government 
owned and operated lines. 31 

Some of the first projects for more adequate lines of steam 
communication came from that portion of India where the urge 
was greatest. The citizens of Calcutta and Madras could not 
take advantage of a steam navy as Bombay did, hence they sought 
other means of improving their contacts with Europe. Early in 
the year 1839, the subscribers to the Bengal Steam Fund adopted 
resolutions favoring the early realization of a a comprehensive ” 
plan of steam communication; that is, an arrangement whereby 
all of the Indian Presidencies would be included in a single system 
of steam communication. Very soon such a project came up for 
definite consideration. The Steam Committee of London, headed 
by a Mr. T. A. Curtis, projected a joint stock steam navigation 
company for the operation of steamships both in European and 
Asiatic waters to bring all of the presidencies into one system 
which might later be extended to China and Australia. Profits 
were anticipated from the carriage of mails, passengers, and 
goods, as well as from subsidies. 32 

The Calcutta Steam Association considered the plan worthy of 
support, and called in a portion of their steam subscriptions to be 
sent to the English agent of the Association, Capt. James Barber, 
to assist the new organization, popularly known as the Compre¬ 
hensive Company. 33 In this the Madras Steam Association 
joined, while Bombay gave the proposition a wide berth. 34 

31 This was a normal attitude for government to take. Governmental regula¬ 
tion of private enterprise is perhaps always more effective than governmental 
ownership and operation in which the competitive element is lacking. — See Map 
of the Overland Route between England and India ; Shewing also Other Lines of 
Communication (London, 1842). 

32 Asiatic Journal, XXVIII, N.S., Pt. II, 11, 163 j ibid,, XXIX, N.S. Pt. II, 89, 

90, 216 5 ibid,, XXX, N.S., Pt. II, 269, 270. 33 Ibid., XXIX, N.S., Pt. II, 247, 269. 

34 Ibid., 2475 ibid., XXXI, N.S., Pt. II, 29, 305 Madras Courier, 16 Sept., 
1839. The Bombay Times for 28 Sept., 1839, did contain this statement, however: 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


246 

While the London company was still in an early stage of de¬ 
velopment, a large public meeting of those interested in steam 
communication was held in Calcutta for the purpose of protesting 
to Parliament and to the East India Company against the many 
abuses in the existing communications, whereby Calcutta was at 
the mercy of the Bombay authorities. After petitions had been 
drawn up and adopted, a partial remedy for the evil was proposed 
by Mr. Thomas E. M. Turton, one of the active members of the 
Bengal Steam Committee. He proposed that while the Com¬ 
prehensive concern was perfecting its plans for establishing a 
monthly communication over the whole line between England 
and India, the Calcutta group should promote the comprehensive 
scheme by purchasing a single large steamer and establishing a 
quarterly service between Calcutta and Suez. Such a vessel, he 
maintained, would thus be the “ precursor ” of others to follow, 
and upon the completion of the Comprehensive plan would be 
absorbed by it. 36 

This “ Precursor ” plan proved to be the apple of discord in 
the garden of steam hopes. The Calcutta Steam Committee im¬ 
mediately broke up into two warring factions. The first, led by 
C. B. Greenlaw, Secretary of the Bengal Steam Fund, held that 
any deviation from the plan outlined by the promoters of the 
Comprehensive plan would likely wreck it, especially since strong 
opposition had already developed in London. Turton and his 
friends, on the other hand, being large subscribers to the Steam 
Fund, stoutly argued that enough time had already been wasted 
in vainly waiting for an adequate communication, and that the 
proposed Precursor would but hasten the complete steam naviga¬ 
tion system. They agreed to make common cause with the Com- 
prehensives if the latter could get under way at once, but 
otherwise they were determined to put their own vessel into serv¬ 
ice. 36 _ Between the two factions bitter hostility soon developed, 
practically disrupting the Bengal Steam Association and making it 
exceedingly unlikely that all of the subscriptions to the fund 
would ever be paid in or employed as originally planned. 

It would be unprofitable to follow all of the turnings in the 
squabble between the two groups in Calcutta. The quarrel at 
times was partially patched up and a semblance of unity restored. 

“We shall always be ready to join heart and hand with our Calcutta contemporaries 
m hastening the accomplishment of any such scheme of steamers for this employ- 
ment; but we shall ever oppose any interference with the steady despatch of the 

overland mails between Suez and Bombay. . 

35 Asiatic Journal , XXXI, N.S., Pt, II, 7-13, 99-104, 149. 

36 Ibid., p. 204. 



COMPREHENSIVE PLAN OF COMMUNICATION 247 

But as the issue presently degenerated into a matter of personal 
hostility, each party determined to succeed at the expense of the 
other. In October, 1839, Turton and his associates undertook to 
form a company under the name of “ Eastern Steam Navigation 
Company ” for the building or purchasing of a Precursor of 
1200 to 1500 tons, to be propelled by engines of 450 horse¬ 
power. 87 This presently led to a secession of the Precursorites 
and completed the rupture. The Comprehensive group there¬ 
upon continued their attachment to the London plan, now 
launched as the East India Steam Navigation Company, although 
no complete union with the London group was ever effected. 88 

At this juncture, the Comprehensives received a severe set¬ 
back by the refusal of the East India Company to lend the 
slightest countenance to the undertaking. The Directors stated 
that they fully appreciated the motives which had led to the 
formation of the East India Steam Navigation Company, and 
that they were willing to give encouragement to any established 
means of comprehensive communication, but that they “ could 
not support this project in its present stage.” 39 At this psycho¬ 
logical moment there appeared on the scene an established con¬ 
cern, the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company, whose history 
epitomizes the development of steam shipping in eastern seas 
after 1840. 

This concern may be said to have originated in 18x5. In that 
momentous year a Mr. Brodie McGhee Willcox set up in business 
in London as shipbroker and commission agent. He soon asso¬ 
ciated with him a young man from the Shetland Isles, Arthur 
Anderson, who became a partner in the firm of Willcox and An¬ 
derson in 1822. By this time a regular trade had been established 
with ports of the Peninsula, Oporto, Lisbon, and Gibraltar, with 
a fleet of sailing vessels. In 1835 Messrs. Willcox and Anderson 
became the operating agents for a line of steam vessels owned by 
Messrs. Bourne of Dublin. As this service appeared to promise 
success, other steamers were chartered, and in 1836 five first class 
steamers were put under construction for the Peninsular line. 40 

Prior to September 4, 1837, English mails to Lisbon were 

87 Ibid., pp. 103, 104. 

88 Ibid.) XXXII, N.S., Pt. II, 3—5, 95—97, 2x5, 3115 ibid.) XXXIII, N.S., Pt. 
II, 1, 2. The Madras Steam Committee was meanwhile giving the Comprehensive 
scheme its whole support. 

39 Ibid.) XXXII, N.S., Pt. II, 1. 

40 The Blue Peter, I, No. 2 (Sept., X921), 43, 44 (an historical summary of 
the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, by Mr. F. A. Hook, of 
the Lamson Agency) $ R. W. Cornewall-Jones, The British Merchant Service 
(London, 1898), p. 146. 



248 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

conveyed weekly by Post Office sailing packets, wind and weather 
permitting. At the same time, the mail communication with 
Cadiz and Gibraltar was only once a month by Admiralty steamer. 
In comparison with this inadequate service, the commercial 
packets of Messrs. Willcox and Anderson showed a great im¬ 
provement. The firm’s first request for a contract for carrying 
the Peninsular mails was very coldly received by the Post Office, 
however, for the theory had long prevailed that official mails 
should be carried only by official agencies. Public demands for 
a more improved service caused a reconsideration of the mail 
service before long, and Willcox and Anderson were awarded a 
contract in competition with their single rival, the British and 
Foreign Steam Navigation Company. 41 

In carrying out their contract, Willcox and Anderson made 
extensive improvements in their lines. No sooner had the service 
commenced to be profitable than it was further developed. First 
it was extended, on a commercial basis, to Malta, and then to 
Alexandria, successfully competing with French and Austrian 
steam lines. This development, coupled with the growing con¬ 
fidence of the Government in the transportation of mails and 
despatches by private enterprise under contract, paved the way 
for the continuation of the Company’s transit service first to 
Egypt and later into the eastern seas. 42 

Between September 4, 1837, and September 1, 1840, the India 
mails using the overland route were forwarded every fourth 
Saturday from Falmouth for Gibraltar in the vessels of the 
Peninsular Company. At Gibraltar they were transferred to an 
Admiralty steamer and carried to Malta, whence they were con¬ 
veyed to Alexandria by another Admiralty steamer, the home¬ 
ward bound mails, of course, being transmitted in reverse order. 
However, as the Peninsular packets had to call at Vigo, Oporto, 
Lisbon, and Cadiz in their passage to and from Gibraltar, and the 
Admiralty packets in the Mediterranean were of no more than 
140 horsepower, 43 the transmission of the mails between England 
and Egypt frequently required three weeks or even a month. 
The establishment of a line from Marseilles through France 

41 Pari. Pap. } 1851, No, 605, pp. 364-36$, u A Statement of the Principal 
Facts connected with the Establishment and Extension of Steam Communications 
with India, China, etc*, by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, n 
by Arthur Anderson; The P. &? O. Pocket, Book (3d issue, London, 1908), p. 8, 
The first mail steamer to sail under contract, the Iberia , was despatched from 
Falmouth 4 Sept,, 1837. The contract called for vessels of 140 horsepower* Those 
actually put on the line rated at 250 horsepower. 

42 The Blue Peter , I, 44; Pari . Pap., 1851, No, 349, p. 19. 

43 Some of these had been in service since English steamers first appeared in the 
Mediterranean in 1825. 



COMPREHENSIVE PLAN OF COMMUNICATION 249 

about the middle of 1839 also failed to work the advantage ex¬ 
pected. 11 

These matters caused the British Government to intimate to 
the managers of the Peninsular Company that a plan for ex¬ 
pediting the mails on the entire line between Alexandria and 
England would be welcomed. The Company thereupon pro¬ 
posed to establish a complete line of large and powerful steamers, 
rating x 800 tons and 430 horsepower, to operate this line, touch¬ 
ing only at Gibraltar and Malta. 45 This scheme was unofficially 
approved by the Government, the actual contract for the service 
being let on the basis of public tenders. The Peninsular Com¬ 
pany found three competitors on this occasion, but easily won the 
contract, agreeing to transport the mails for a smaller sum even 
than that required for the inadequate Admiralty packets. 48 By 
such stages the Peninsular Company acquired an experience, an 
equipment, and a capital which enabled them to consider a line 
of mail packets from Suez to eastern ports. 

The Peninsular Company had not been without considerable 
competition in European waters, and from the time that an eastern 
service was first considered it was evident that the project would 
not have clear sailing. Considerable influence was brought to 
bear both on members of Government and on public opinion by 
rival interests to prevent the entrance of the Peninsular concern 
into Asiatic waters at all. 47 Chief among these competitors were 
the embryonic East India Steam Navigation Company, which 
boasted members of Parliament in its organization, and the 
Eastern Steam Navigation Company, called the cc Precursorites.” 
The Peninsular Company with its wide experience, large capital, 
and growing fleet of steam vessels naturally bade fair to wreck 
the plans, if not the aims, of both groups of Indian investors who, 
as subscribers to the Bengal Fund, had been laboring for so many 
years to place in service a line of large steamships which would 
be owned and controlled in the eastern presidencies. 48 For a 
considerable time, therefore, the London Committee of the Com- 
prehensives left nothing undone to retard the cause of the Penin¬ 
sular Company. 49 

44 Part. Pap., 1851, No. 605, p. 367. 

45 Ibid., pp. 367-368. The first vessels placed on this line were the Oriental, 
1600 tons and 450 horsepower, and the Great Liverpool, 1540 tons and 464 horse¬ 
power. These vessels were already constructed at the time the contract was let. 

46 London Times, 1 1 Nov., 1838. 47 Park Pap., 1851, No. 605, p. 370. 

48 In fact, in remitting* funds to the London Committee in 1840, the Calcutta 
Comprehensives made it clear that they did so only on condition that the East India 
Steam Navigation Company establish headquarters in Calcutta. — Asiatic Journal, 

xxxii, n.s., Pt. n, 96. 

40 Ibid., p. 3tIJ ibid., XXXIV, N.S., Pt. II, I. 



250 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

Meanwhile, in the midst of dissension and bickering, the Com- 
prehensives and Precursors had each contracted for the construc¬ 
tion of a large steam vessel, although adequate funds were lacking 
in both cases. The knowledge of this situation and the need for 
a measure of Indian cooperation led Messrs. Willcox and Ander¬ 
son to propose a merger to the London Comprehensive group. 
The projectors of the East India Steam Navigation Company 
were offered seats in the direction of the Peninsular Company 
and the Comprehensive subscribers were to receive proportional 
shares in a new stock issue of the Peninsular Company, which 
was about to increase its capitalization and become a joint stock 
concern. 50 

Before all the details of the amalgamation had been adjusted, 
the Peninsular Company had received a royal charter of incor¬ 
poration, dated December 31, 1840, constituting it the Peninsular 
and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. 51 The charter was 
granted, however, subject to the conditions — 

That the Company should open an improved steam com¬ 
munication with India throughout, from England, within 
two years from the date of the charter. That all steam ves¬ 
sels to be constructed by the Company, of 400-horse power 
and upwards, should be so strengthened and otherwise ar¬ 
ranged as to be able to carry and fire guns of the largest 
calibre then used in Her Majesty’s steam vessels of war. 
That the Government should have a power of inspection, as 
to their being maintained in good and efficient sea-worthy 
condition, and that the Company should not sell any of such 
vessels without giving the pre-emption of purchase to the 
Government. 52 

Early in 1841 arrangements for the absorption of the East India 
Steam Navigation Company were completed, the promoters of 
this enterprise receiving positions in the directorate of the Penin¬ 
sular and Oriental Company as previously proposed. 03 

50 Come wall-Jones, of. cit., p. 149. 

51 Asiatic Journal, XXXIII, N.S., Pt. IT, 2, 197-1985 The P. & 0 . Pocket Book, 
pp. 8-95 Pari . Pap., 1851, No. 605, p. 70. The Company was incorporated with a 
proposed capital of £1,500,000. 

52 BarL 1851, No. 60^ p. 170* The Government was also to have the 
right to commandeer any of the vessels of this eastern fleet in time of war. Toward 
this new establishment the East India Company agreed to pay £20,000 annually for 
five years. 

58 Ibid,, pp. 124, 154-155. Arthur Anderson stated before a Select Parlia¬ 
mentary Committee in 1851 that of the £300,000 subscribed by the Comprehensives, 
only about £30,000 was actually paid in. Cf. Asiatic Journal, XXXVI, N.S., Pt. 
II, 16. 



COMPREHENSIVE PLAN OF COMMUNICATION 254 

Negotiations had meanwhile been started with Turton and his 
associates of the Eastern Steam Navigation Company for effecting 
a combination with the Peninsular Company. Nothing tangible 
came of repeated overtures at first. Nevertheless, when the new 
Peninsular and Oriental Company was formed, three seats in the 
Board of Directors were reserved for the Precursorites, should 
they choose to come in on the same terms as had been offered 
their competitors. Until some time in 1841, the Precursorites 
hoped to realize their program and actually place their first vessel 
on the Suez-Calcutta line, to be followed by others subsequently. 
On November 17, however, a meeting of the shareholders of the 
Eastern Steam Navigation Company was held in Calcutta at 
which the fate of the concern was determined. A proposal to 
renew negotiations with the P. and O. Company was passed and 
the merger was approved subj ect to the conditions already offered 
to the Precursorites. 54 

Thus passed from the scene one of the last of the many at¬ 
tempts of the English in India to develop lines of steam vessels 
according to their own plans. 65 English capital and the favor of 
the British Government and East India Company provided a 
combination too effective to be withstood by the independent and 
uncertain Indian interests. Following the formal dissolution of 
the Eastern Steam Navigation Company in Calcutta, the London 
faction, led by the belligerent Turton, who was one of the princi¬ 
pal stockholders of the concern, still refused to consider the sale 
of the Precursor or the abandonment of the plan, meanwhile 
striving desperately to secure funds with which to complete the 
vessel and place her in service. 60 The task proved to be hopeless. 
With bankruptcy staring them in the face, those who had con¬ 
tracted for the building of the Precursor were compelled to offer 
her for sale in 1842 “for the protection of themselves for the 
many and great liabilities they have incurred.” 57 With all con¬ 
ditions attending the purchase removed, she was purchased by the 
P. and O. Company for £45,000 and added to the eastern fleet 
of that Company for the carrying out of a new mail contract with 
the Government and East India Company. 

04 Asiatic Journal, XXXIV, N.S., Pt. II, 252; ibid., XXXVII, N.S., Pt. II, 
133-134.. 

05 Ibid., XXXVII, N.S., Pt. II, 254-255; ibid., XXXVIII, N.S., Pt. II, 16, 

X27, 4 l 6 . 

06 Ibid., XXXVII, N.S., Pt. II, 184-185. 

57 Ibid., XXXIX, N.S., Pt. II, 103; ibid., 3 d Ser., Ill, 322, 545 > ibid., 3d Ser., 
IV, 324 539, 540. The Precursory of x8oo tons and 520 horsepower, was com¬ 
pleted in March, 1842, at a cost of £80,000. Following her purchase by the P. and 
O. Company, she was considerably altei*ed, and was sent out to India in 1844, arriving 
at Calcutta on 26 Dec. 



252 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

The two years allowed to the Peninsular and Oriental Com¬ 
pany by their charter for laying the foundations of an eastern 
steam service were employed in the building of two new steam 
vessels, the preparation of coaling and docking facilities, and in 
improving the transit through Egypt. The first of the new 
eastern fleet to be completed, the IlinJostau, of 1800 tons and 
520 horsepower, was ready for sea in the early autumn of 1 842. 
Commanded by Capt. Robert Moresby, late of the Indian Navy, 
the vessel left for India on September 24, making several stops 
en route , and arrived at Calcutta after a voyage of eighty-seven 
days. Shortly afterward a sister vessel, the Benthick, was 
launched at Liverpool, and was despatched from Southampton 
for Calcutta on August 24, 1843, making the voyage around the 
Cape of Good Hope in about equal time. :,s With this steam 
equipment, to which the Precursor was shortly added, an experi¬ 
mental series of monthly voyages was commenced between 
Calcutta, Madras, Ceylon, Aden, and Suez, which proved 
to be practicable from the very start. The first mails destined 
for Calcutta by the new line were sent out from London 
in 1843, and from the beginning of the next year service, 
although not yet completely provided for by contract, was 
regular. 59 

An investigation of the cost of operation of the line between 
Suez and Bombay by the comparatively small armed steam ves¬ 
sels of the Indian Navy disclosed the interesting fact that al¬ 
though the average speed of these vessels was low, their expenses 
were correspondingly high. Believing that they were in a posi¬ 
tion to offer better service at lower cost, the Peninsular and 
Oriental Company made a proposal to the East India Company 
in August, 1843, offering to relieve the latter of the Bombay 
line of communication and to substitute for the steam vessels of 
the. Indian Navy, which averaged only about 200 horsepower, 
their own fine vessels of 520 horsepower. This service was to be 

08 Asiatic Journal, XXXIX, N.S., Pt. II, 253-154; ibid., 3d Ser., II, 326, 432; 

Low, op. cit.y II, 138—140, Moresby, who had conducted surveys of the Red Sea and 
adjacent waters with such conspicuous success, and had afterwards commanded 
various steamers of the Indian Navy, finally left that service in 1841, disgusted 
with the lack of appreciation shown him by the East India Company. The entry 
of the P. & 0 . into the eastern field opened up a new and attractive career, and 
until his final retirement in 1846, he was considered the ablest commander in the 
service of that company. 

69 Asiatic Journal , XL, N.S., Pt. II, pp. 39, 405 ibid., 3d Ser., I, 326-3275 II, 
85-86. That the stockholders of the Company did not suffer from the vast expense 
contingent upon carrying the new program into effect is indicated by the fact that 
the dividends during these years averaged over 7%, leaving considerable sums still 
as undivided profits. 



COMPREHENSIVE PLAN OF COMMUNICATION 253 

undertaken for an annual sum of £80,000, thus saving the East 
India Company about £30,000 for the transit of the mails. 60 

The Court of Directors did not respond to this plan, and it 
lapsed. In lieu of this, however, responsible members of the 
British Government suggested that the P. and O. Company ex¬ 
tend their regular service eastward to the Straits and China, a 
service which had been carried on for some time in desultory 
fashion by the Bengal Government. 01 Before this was acted 
upon, an unofficial but important Committee, consisting of repre¬ 
sentatives of the India Board, the Admiralty, the Colonial Office, 
the India House, the Post Office, and the House of Commons, 
spent several weeks in considering the “ comprehensive ” plan in 
all its aspects. 02 

On the favorable report of this Committee, Admiralty con¬ 
tracts were awarded to the P. and O. Company for the regular 
operation of the two eastern lines, the service to begin on January 
1, 1845. 03 By the terms of the agreement, the China mails were 
to be conveyed monthly in vessels of 400 horsepower or above to 
and from Ceylon, Penang, Singapore, and Hong Kong, connect¬ 
ing at Ceylon with the line between Calcutta and Suez, in con¬ 
sideration of the sum of £115,000 per annum. This contract 
was not put up to public bidding, as it was obvious that no other 
company was in a position to undertake the service, in the first 
place, and in the second, it would have been unjust to the Penin¬ 
sular and Oriental Company after they had invested so much 
capital in new vessels for executing the service. 64 

This arrangement gave India two mail communications with 
Europe per month. One was carried on by the steam packets of 
the East India Company between Suez, Aden, and Bombay, 
whence the mails, and, occasionally, travellers, were transported 

m Pari. Paf., 1851, No. 605, p. 371. In 1842 the total cost per annum of the 
monthly service between Suez and Bombay was about £xio,ooo. 

01 A strictly private enterprise, fostered by the Calcutta firm of Mackey & Co., 
had been put on foot in x 842 for a line between Calcutta and Singapore. With the 
maturing of the Peninsular and Oriental Company’s eastern service, however, this 
seems to have fallen through. Asiatic Journal, XXXIX, N.S., Pt. II, 200 j ibid., 
XL, N.S., Pt. II, 46. See Pari. Paf., 1850, No. 693. 

02 Asiatic Journal , 3d Ser., II, 663—664. 

63 Ibid., 3d Ser., Ill, 98-99, 322; ibid., 3d Ser., IV, 539—540. The Precursor, 
which had lately been overhauled, was immediately sent out to Calcutta, followed 
soon afterward by the Lady Mary Wood (650 T., 250 H.P.), which was to carry 
the China mails until the arrival of more adequate vessels. Large steamers were at 
the same time put under construction in England for this purpose. 

64 Pari. Paf., 1851, No. 605, p. 372. This contract awarded the Company 
about x 2i. per mile for the China service, whereas for the Calcutta service payment 
was made at the rate of about 2or. per mile. It *was estimated that the steam vessels 
belonging to the Admiralty could not have operated the China line with mails alone 
for less than 42X. 6d. per mile. 



254 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


overland by dak to the other presidencies and to the larger 
cities of the interior. The other was conducted by the Peninsular 
and Oriental Company, whose vessels, also touching at Aden, 
conveyed mails and passengers to Ceylon, Madras, and Calcutta, 
dropping Bombay and China mails at Ceylon, whence they were 
carried to their destinations by branch steamers. 00 It was evident 
from the first that this newly-inaugurated plan conferred great 
benefits, especially of a commercial nature, upon both [England 
and India. Nevertheless, the operation of the scheme was in 
some respects unsatisfactory, chiefly because it was not unified. 
Lack of correlation in the sailings and time schedules of the ves¬ 
sels of the Indian Navy and of the Peninsular and Oriental Com¬ 
pany produced frequent delays in the transmission of mails 
through Egypt and in their despatch from Alexandria. 00 But 
greater annoyances grew out of the complex arrangements for 
the transit of the mails on the European side. 

According to the schedule adopted by the British Post Office, 
the mails destined for Bombay and interior Indian cities were 
despatched from Southampton and London on the third and 
seventh respectively of each month. The former section of the 
mail, conveyed by sea to Malta, met there the mail despatched 
from London on the seventh via Marseilles. From Malta both 
sections were conveyed to Alexandria in Admiralty packets, and 
from Suez to Bombay in vessels of the Indian Navy. The second 
Indian mail left Southampton on the twentieth of each month in 
P. and O. vessels and called at Malta for mails despatched from 
London on the twenty-fourth via Marseilles. From Malta the 
combined mail was carried to Alexandria and from Suez to Ceylon 
in P. and O. steamers, the Bombay and China mails being trans¬ 
ferred at Ceylon, while the Madras and Calcutta mails continued 
in the same vessel. A similar schedule was arranged for the 
west-bound mails. 07 But this plan failed to function as intended. 
Mails destined for London and marked via Marseilles were 
frequently transported via Gibraltar instead or vice versa. Thus 
there were sometimes two London deliveries of the same eastern 
mail. 68 Moreover, as the P. and O. steamers were almost inva¬ 
riably on time, while those of the Admiralty and the East India 
Company seldom were, great confusion resulted. 

To simplify the system and to iron out several of the wrinkles 

85 Part- Paf-, 1851, No. 349, p. 19. See ibid., 1852, No. 87, “Postal Com- 
munication in India.” 

63 A static Journal, 3d Ser., Ill, 655. 

67 Ibid., 3d Ser., IV, 207; Capt. James Barber, The Overland Guide-Book . . . 
(London, 1S4 5), p. 95 W. H. Bartlett, The Nile Boat , pp. 11, 19* 

68 Asiatic Journal , 3d Sen, IV, 95, 655, 



COMPREHENSIVE PLAN OF COMMUNICATION 255 

in the existing plan, the Peninsular and Oriental Company in 
1845 undertook to effect a substitution of their own vessels for 
those of the Admiralty on the line between Southampton and 
Alexandria via Malta in connection with a new line of steam¬ 
ships they were about to establish between England, Constanti¬ 
nople, and Black Sea ports, running a branch steamer from Malta 
to Alexandria to connect with the monthly sailings of steamers 
of the Indian Navy. This service they offered to perform at an 
annual cost of £10,000 less than that required by the Admiralty 
steamers. Such an arrangement was carried out for a time and 
with considerable improvement in the Mediterranean service. 
The Government, however, finding that it had no other employ¬ 
ment for the steamers thus discontinued, terminated the plan and 
resumed sailings as before. This was strongly resented both in 
England and in India, particularly because of the fact that the 
Admiralty steamers carried neither goods, parcels nor passen¬ 
gers. 09 Such a condition could not long be tolerated, and within 
a few years more it gave place entirely to mail and passenger 
service by private carriers under Government contract. 

Although much remained to be done in the way of systematiz¬ 
ing and synchronizing the service, all of India was definitely 
connected with the home country by 1843 through the agency 
of steam communication. Calcutta and London had been brought 
within forty days of each other, the time between Bombay and 
London being some ten days less. In either case this was only 
about one-fourth of the time which had been required for the com¬ 
munication at the beginning of the century.™ 

Within the next ten years the whole comprehensive plan was 
improved and extended, pardy for the sake of better communica¬ 
tion between England and the Indian Presidencies and China, and 
pardy in connection with the development of new steam lines to 
the Australian colonies. By 1854 the China steamers sailed twice 
monthly from Bombay to Hong Kong, picking up the China mails 
brought out from Suez at Ceylon, and again stopping at Ceylon 
on the return voyage for the Bombay mails brought out monthly 
from England via Suez in the P. and O. steamers. The steamers 


69 Pari. Paf. } 1851, No. 605, pp. 373—3755 Asiatic Journal , 3d Ser., IV, 540. 

70 Anderson, Communication with India > China> etc ., via Egyft , pp. 3-5; Asiatic 
Journal , 3d Ser., I, 562, 567; Edward Clarkson, The Suez Navigable Canal for 
Accelerated Communication with India (London, 1843), P- x 4* One of the results 
of the extension of eastern routes was the building- of larger and more powerful 
steam vessels. In 1854 the Peninsular and Oriental Company added to their fleet 
the palatial Himalaya , of 3438 tons and 7^0 horsepower, the first screw steamer 
on the Indian line. This vessel was subsequently purchased by the British Govern¬ 
ment and used as a transport. 



256 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

of the Indian Navy continued to operate the Bombay-Suez line 
monthly, but the service had become so unsatisfactory that the 
East India Company had at last concluded to relinquish the line 
to a private concern as soon as the necessary contracts could be 
awarded. 71 The full working out of this passenger and mail 
service was somewhat interrupted by political events in Europe 
and in India in the years 1854 to 1858, but before the opening 
of the Crimean War a complete skeleton of steam lines of com¬ 
munication to the East had been constructed, only requiring im¬ 
provements from time to time as mechanical evolution and en¬ 
larging needs demanded. 

The working out of a complete system of communications with 
India awaited the establishment of regular steam service to China 
and Australia. The vigorous young British commonwealths 
which sprang up in Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand after 
the cessation of convict transportation were not slow in recogniz¬ 
ing the potentialities of the steamship. Although they were fur¬ 
ther removed from the mother country than the Anglo-Indians, 
they were also home lovers, and were more acutely conscious, 
possibly, of separation from friends and relatives than the more 
sophisticated English in India. 

Until 1841 ships made their way to the Australian settlements 
only when there was a cargo of goods or a load of colonists to be 
taken out. Other passengers and mails, of course, had to wait on 
such casual sailings. Some approach to the matter of regular 
communication was made in 1841, however, when a line of sailing 
packets began making voyages at fairly regular intervals from 
the Clyde to the colony of New South Wales. 7 " This was fol¬ 
lowed by other lines of regular service of a similar kind, so that 
within a few more years the sailings to and from England and 
Australia by way of the Cape of Good Hope were about as ade¬ 
quate as that character of service could accomplish. Such com¬ 
munications were, nevertheless, quite unsatisfactory in two main 
particulars: first, the passage to and from Australia, a distance of 
approximately 15,000 miles, was very slow, requiring a voyage of 
four or five months 5 and in the second place, because of the time 

71 [Lieut. Thomas Waghorn], Letter to the Rt. Hon. Wm. Ewart Gladstone, 

Secretary of State for the Colonies, on the Extension of Steam Navigation 
from Singapore to Port Jackson , Australia (London, 1846), p* 22; Grindlay, of. cit. } 
PP*. x 9 > 20 j passim. The firm of Grindlay & Co. had been formed by Melville 
Grindlay, formerly a member of the Bengal Steam Committee and a long stanch 
advocate of steam lines direct to Calcutta. 

Asiatic Journal, XXXIV, N.S., Pt. II, 163. Mails for Australia were regu¬ 
larly despatched m sailing vessels under British Government contract after February, 
1844 .. — Ibid., 3d Ser., II, 2i2. 1 



COMPREHENSIVE PLAN OF COMMUNICATION 257 

consumed and the quantities of food required for passengers, it was 
relatively expensive, single fare averaging from £75 to fioo. 73 
Obviously this could be improved only by the establishment of 
lines of large steam vessels. 

The first step was taken toward improving the communication 
when about 1845 a group of Sydney steam enthusiasts formed a 
steam association, not unlike those organized in the Indian com¬ 
munities, for the purpose of raising funds for the formation of a 
steam company and for carrying on a campaign for government 
assistance. Already lines of small steam vessels were in opera¬ 
tion for coastwise and river traffic in the colonies, 74 and the ready 
success of these small ventures, together with the opening up of 
the line between Bombay and Suez by the Indian Navy, gave 
impetus to the idea that the establishment of steam lines by one 
or another of the various possible routes between England and 
Australia would be practicable. 75 

In spite of the enthusiasm in New South Wales for the pro¬ 
jected steam navigation company, it was soon discovered that the 
problem was too large to be solved at the outset by private initia¬ 
tive. It was only when the Legislative Council of the colony 
petitioned the Home Government in 1845 “ that Her Majesty 
may be graciously pleased to extend to this colony the benefits of 
the arrangements under which mails are to be despatched by 
steam conveyance to India and China, on the same terms as other 
British colonies,” 70 that a promising beginning was made. Prog¬ 
ress, however, was discouragingly slow. In 1846, 1848, and 
again in 1850, Select Committees appointed by the Legislative 
Council of New South Wales studied ways and means of im¬ 
proving communications, 77 but the Colonial Government found it 
impracticable to take any active steps in consequence. 

The recommendations of the Committee of 1850, while not 
followed up at once, had considerable influence on the decisions 

73 p ar p Pap., 1851, No. 372, App. No. 11. 

74 Ibid., p. Si Asiatic Journal , XVIII, N.8., Pt. II, 24, 2365 ibid., XXXII, N.S., 
Ft. II, 234, 291 i ibid., XXXVI, N.S., Pt. II, 34. The Sydney Gazette said on 23 
May, 1835: “ The impetus which steam navigation gives to exertions in all parts 
of the colony to which it is directed has had its effects. . . Property ... is daily 
increasing in value} new buildings are springing up, and the proprietors of inns find 
their account in the facility and expedition of communication.” The first steam¬ 
boat in the waters of New South Wales was put into service in 1831. 

75 Pari. Pap., 1851, No. 372, p. 45 Asiatic Journal, XXX, N.S., Pt. II, 445 
Adam Bogue, Steam to Australia, Its General Advantages Considered . . . 
(Sydney, 1848). 

70 Waghorn, of. cit., p. 20. 

77 Pari. Paf., 1851, No. 430, u Copies of the Reports of 1846, 1S48, and 1850, 
of Committees of the Legislative Councils of New South Wales, New Zealand, and 
the Mauritius. . 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


258 

of the Home Government later. This report took into considera¬ 
tion the advantages of all possible routes, and reported in favor 
of the so-called Torres Straits route, by way of Singapore, Ceylon, 
and Aden to Suez, and from Alexandria to England. The Cape 
route was considered to be primarily a commercial highway, one 
which could be as well served by sailing as by steam vessels. The 
route by way of the Isthmus of Panama was given serious con¬ 
sideration, as it promised some unique advantages. It was no 
longer than the others, and its proximity to the rich commercial 
marts of North and South America and the West Indies gave it 
considerable prestige. Moreover, the early completion of the 
Panama Railway was confidently anticipated. 78 

Meanwhile, the success of the Peninsular and Oriental Com¬ 
pany in the East, and the agitation carried on by interested Eng¬ 
lish groups gave promise of tangible accomplishment. 7 " On 
March 27, 1851, the English House of Commons ordered “ that 
a Committee be appointed to inquire into the existing Steam Com¬ 
munications with India and China, and into the Practicability of 
effecting any improvement therein; and also into the best mode 
of establishing Steam Communications between England, India, 
China, Australia, New Zealand, or any of them, as well as any 
Points upon the several routes between them.” 80 

This Committee of seventeen pursued its labors vigorously for 
more than four months. Almost at the outset of its work the 
fact became apparent that while two separate problems had been 
designated in the task assigned, the first, that of suggesting 
changes and improvements in the service to India and China, de¬ 
pended largely on the recommendations to be made regarding 
the second, which had to do with Australasian lines. The Com¬ 
mittee therefore attacked the second problem first, handing in a 
first report on June fifth. This report was at once comprehen¬ 
sive and definitive. It reviewed the urgent need of the Australian 
communities for regular and rapid steam service; it outlined the 
character and the merits of each of the three great routes by which 
steam communication might be established, together with the 
steam companies prepared to develop each; it compared the merits 
of the new screw propeller with the new “ feathering ” paddle 

78 Pari . Paf. , 1851, Nos. **49, 470, 372. The competed distance between 
Plymouth and Sydney by way of Panama was 12,572 miles, requiring’ a voyag'e 
estimated at 64 days. By way of Singapore the mileage was calculated as 12,710, 
the time as 66 days, and by way of the Cape of Good Hope, 13,162 miles and 71 days. 

79 Asiatic Journal 3d Scr., Ill, 3225 Waghorn, of. cit., pp. 22, 455 Calcutta 
Review, XIII, 200-2205 P®rl. Paf., 1851, No. 372, pp. 478-4855 [R. 3 VL Martin], 
British Possessions in Eiirofe , Africa , Asia , and Australasia connected with England 
by the India and Australia Mail Steam Packet Qomfany . . . (London, 1847). 

80 Pari. Paf., 1851, No. 472, p. [ii]. 



COMPREHENSIVE PLAN OF COMMUNICATION 259 

wheel; it considered termini 5 and, finally, it referred to the sub¬ 
sidies necessary for putting its proposals into effect. 81 

The Committee found the direct route through Egypt to Point 
de Galle and thence via Singapore, Batavia, and Cape Leeuwin 
most advantageous from the point of view of postal communica¬ 
tion. This was also the line adjudged most desirable for pas¬ 
senger traffic as far as expedition and economy were concerned, 
“ although the tropical heats . . . together with the probability 
of crowded vessels . . . render it the least preferable, in point 
of comfort.” The Cape line was selected as peculiarly adapted 
to the carriage of merchandise, and this also was found to be the 
only practicable route to Australia entirely under the control of 
Great Britain and free from liability of interruption. In view of 
these considerations, the Committee felt that it could make but 
one logical recommendation, which was “ that the line proposed 
to be extended from the Cape of Good Hope to Sydney is the one 
which combines these advantages to the greatest extent, and at' 
the smallest cost to the public.” 83 The Committee further be¬ 
lieved that within a few years a steam communication between 
Australia and India by way of Singapore would be a natural 
result of the growth of Australian colonies. 

This report of the Committee was not acted upon by the Gov¬ 
ernment as the Cabinet did not sympathize with the emphasis 
laid on the Cape route. 83 Nevertheless, most of the features 
contained in its recommendations were worked out during the 
next few years. The General Screw Steam Company, which had 
already established a line to the Cape of Good Hope, placed in 
service a new class of vessels on the route to Australia by way of 
the Cape. Even the Panama route was developed for a time, in 
spite of the adverse report of the Committee. The Royal Mail 
Steam Navigation Company, which had been carrying mails to the 
West Indies and Mexico under contract for several years, ten¬ 
tatively began steam sailings from Panama to Australia. This 
line was later developed by the Australian Mail Steam Packet 
Company. Their service began in 1852, and by 1854 they had 
completed their preparations for operating a line monthly from 
Panama by way of New Zealand to Sydney and Melbourne. 84 
These two lines to Australia provided facilities for the transporta¬ 
tion of considerable quantities of the more valuable kinds of 
goods, and for some mails and passengers, although neither op- 

8i Ibid., pp. iii-xi, 72. 

K2 Ibid.) pp. vii-xi, 72. 

83 London Times y 4 and 31 July, 1851* 

m Grindlay, op. cit. f pp. 2t, 26, passim; London Times } 20 Nov., 1852. 



26 o 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


erated under Government contract. Passenger traffic, however, 
was not heavy by either of these lines. Those who could not 
afford the heavy steamship fares, and the bulk of emigrants were 
among them, reached the Australasian settlements in the large 
and commodious sailing vessels operated by Messrs. Green, of 
Blackwall, Messrs. Smith, or Messrs. Wigram & Company/ 5 
These firms had developed magnificent lines of sailing vessels 
after the termination of the commercial monopoly of the East 
India Company, and had long been prominent in the Indian trade 
around the Cape of Good Hope. Travellers to the Far East to 
whom speed was more and money less of a factor, generally chose 
to go out by way of the overland route, which was not in the least 
prejudiced by the report of the Committee of 1851 in favor of 
the Cape route. 

Having taken up the communication and transportation needs 
of the Australasian colonies, the Select Committee of r 85 T next 
attacked the question of improving the service to India and China. 
This matter was taken up with particular reference to the postal 
service, yet commercial needs and passenger facilities were con¬ 
sidered as well. 1 '" In substance, the Committee believed that al¬ 
though parts of India received postal service twice a month, all 
main parts of that country should receive fortnightly service. 
This was thought to be feasible without any increase in existing 
costs to the Government. It was recommended that the line 
between Aden and Bombay be left in the hands of the East India 
Company for “ political reasons,” and that a new postal line be 
established between Hong Kong and Shanghai/ 7 There was 
more than a political reason for the former recommendation. 
Evidence taken by the Committee of 1851 indicated that between 
1845 and 1850 the P. and O. Company had made few improve¬ 
ments in their equipment, and had conducted their eastern service 
in true monopolistic fashion/" With the focusing of public 
attention on these shortcomings, however, the Directors of the 
Company read a warning and introduced a number of improve¬ 
ments without delay/ 9 Although the ships of the East India 
Company continued to operate the Bombay-Aden-Suez line, the 

80 Grindlay, of. ciL, pp, 1-2* 

88 Pari. Paf., 1851, No. 605, p. [iii]. This report was handed in 29 July, 1851, 

87 vii-xi} ibid., 1852-1853, No. 627, p. i 4 g. The Secretary of the 
East India Company explained to a Parliamentary Committee in 1853 that “ it has 
been thought desirable . . . that the flag of the Company, as the rulers of India, 
should be seen constantly in the Red Sea and in Egypt.” 

88 Ibid., 1852-1853, No. 627, pp. 177-1785 ibid., 1851, No. 349, p. 19. 

One of the interesting controversies of the time sprang up around the 
respective merits of wooden and iron ships for constant steam service. Up to 
1851, it had generally been assumed that wooden, especially teak, vessels, although 



COMPREHENSIVE PLAN OF COMMUNICATION 261 

P. and O. began a service of their own on this line in 1853 with 
larger and faster vessels than those of the Indian Navy. 90 This 
competition, together with a series of political difficulties in the 
East, which badly disrupted the Naval steam service, eventually 
led to the retirement of the East India Company and to the 
bringing of this pioneer line into the P. and O. system. 

The scheme of fortnightly mails to all parts of India and to 
Singapore and Hong Kong, recommended in 1851, was inaugu¬ 
rated early in 1852. The contracts for this service also called 
for mail trips between Singapore and Sydney in every alternate 
month, a service which was extended to New Zealand a little later 
on. 0t This extended communication, which embraced practically 
all of the points contemplated by those who had originally ad¬ 
vocated a comprehensive plan, was organized in several separate 
sections with several branches. Between England and Alexandria 
was a fortnightly communication by way of Malta and Gibraltar, 
with a branch from Marseilles to Malta. Another fortnightly 
line ran from Suez to Hong Kong via Aden, Point'de Galle 
(Ceylon), Madras, and Calcutta. From Bombay and Point de 
Galle a line continued by way of Penang and Singapore to Hong 
Kong. A branch steamer connected Hong Kong with Shanghai, 
and a branch line from Singapore via Batavia, Swan River, Ade¬ 
laide, and Port Phillip to Sydney was operated in alternate 
months. 9 " The Indian Navy supplemented the P. and O. system 
by monthly voyages from Bombay to Suez and fortnightly service 
from Bombay to Aden to connect with alternate P. and O. 
sailings. 99 

An entire fleet of steamships was required for the working out 
of this comprehensive plan. That of the Peninsular and Oriental 
Company alone numbered about twenty-five by 1854, the major¬ 
ity of which were kept in constant service. These vessels ranged 
in size from small service steamers employed on short branch 
lines, such as those which were employed on the Nile, to the new 


heavier, were superior as naval vessels, of longer life, and even faster than those of 
iron. Even the Peninsular and Oriental Company did not deny these advantages 
of wooden vessels when, in 1850 and again in 1851, they were informed by the 
British Admiralty that u no vessel commenced after the date of this letter will be 
approved of, under the terms of the contract, if built of iron or of any material 
offering so ineffectual a resistance to the striking of shot.” (Park Pap., 1851, No. 
S6, pp. 1-3. See ibid., 1852-1853, No, 627, p. 173.) The Select Committee of 
1851 reported in favor of iron vessels on all points, and within a few years the ban 
of the Admiralty on such ships was removed. 

00 Pari. Pap ,, 1852-1 8 3, No. 627, pp, 158—159. 

01 London Times, 27 Feb,, 4. and 6 March, 1852. 

02 Ibid.) $ March, 1852. 03 Ibid.) 29 Sept., 1852. 



262 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


leviathans of those days, of 1200 to 2000 tons burden and 500 to 
650 horsepower. 81 By 1854 the Peninsular and Oriental Com¬ 
pany were able to put into commission a new screw steam vessel, 
the Himalaya, of 3500 tons and 750 horsepower, the largest 
steamer afloat for the time being. Within a decade speed also 
had materially increased. Eight or nine knots per hour had been 
considered fast service in the early forties. By the outbreak of 
the Crimean War, average speeds of eleven or twelve knots were 
maintained over the longest sections of the eastern lines. 85 Thir¬ 
teen or fourteen knots were not unusual on short runs, and the 
southwest monsoon had definitely lost its power to terrify the 
navigator. Bombay and London had at last been brought within 
a month of each other for the express traveller — a noteworthy 
accomplishment. 80 

In addition to the numerous vessels of the P. and O. establish¬ 
ment, those of the Indian Navy were only less powerful and 
superbly equipped. The ships built to replace and supplement 
those with which the line was opened between Bombay and Suez, 
while constructed with a view to their utility in time of war, were 
no longer the cramped, comfortless warships of the late thirties. 
As their size and power had increased, accommodations for pas¬ 
sengers had likewise. By 1854 such ships as the Assays, of 1800 
tons and 650 horsepower, and Punjaub, 1800 tons and 700 horse¬ 
power, compared very favorably with the palatial steamers of the 
P. and O. in eastern waters. 07 Moreover, since the Indian Navy 
had been placed on a steam basis and employed largely in regular 
passenger and mail service on the Bombay-Suez line, a new gen¬ 
eration of naval officers had grown up who were not steeped in 
the traditions of the old Navy, and to whom there was no disgrace 
in commanding vessels engaged in work of a commercial nature. 88 
The lapse of the commercial activities of the Indian Navy was due 
more to the exigencies of a new series of naval operations, perhaps, 
than to the competition of the P. and O. concern. 

The European end of the comprehensive scheme of communi- 

&4 Grindlay, op. tit., pp. 6, 7; Messrs. Waghorn & Co.’s Overland Guide to 
India by Three Routes to Egypt . . . (2d ed., London 1846), p. 7j David L, 
Richardson, The Anglo-Indian Passage; Homeward and Outward: or A Card for 
the Overland Traveller from Southampton to Bombay, Madras and Calcutta 
(London, 1849), P* 95 Pori- Pap., 1851, No. 605, pp. 420, 427, passim, 

95 Pari. Pap., 1851, No. 605, pp. 335-338, 383-387. 

96 In 1845 Lieut. Thomas Wag-horn carried despatches from Alexandria to 
London which had consumed a total time of twenty-nine and a half days from 
Bombay. Waghorn thought that the time could readily be reduced to twenty-five 
days, using the route from Trieste through Germany to the English Channel. — 
Illustrated London News, 8 Nov., 1845, p. 292. 

07 Low, History of the Indian Navy, II, 583. 

98 Park Pap., 1851, No. 605, pp. xvii, xviii, 104-107, 298-304, 332-335. 



COMPREHENSIVE PLAN OF COMMUNICATION 263 

cations was not wholly in the hands of the Peninsular and Oriental 
Company. Vessels of the British Admiralty had ceased to main¬ 
tain a separate service in the Mediterranean, but their place had 
been taken by a swarm of fast, up-to-date steam packets of French 
and Austrian lines. The French packets operating from Mar¬ 
seilles to ports of the eastern Mediterranean at very frequent 
intervals were still reputed, as they were earlier, to be faster and 
more efficient than competing English vessels. In 1847' the 
French had about forty Post Office packets operating in the Medi¬ 
terranean, with service between Marseilles and Alexandria three 
times a month." After 1845', however, the Austrian Lloyds 
Company, with lines throughout the eastern Mediterranean, 
caused the greatest anxiety. This concern, founded in 1836 with 
an equipment of seven small vessels, had in 1847 twenty-five 
large steamers. Weekly voyages were made all through the East 
and many British passengers to and from the Orient patronized 
this Mediterranean service in spite of attempts by the P. and O. 
to discourage such traffic by a high-handed rate discrimination. 
Sailings of British steamers to many parts of Italy, Greece, the 
Ionian Islands, and Syria had almost entirely ceased as French 
and Austrian vessels captured the local trade of these countries, 
and the idea of a British route to India through Mesopotamia 
lapsed for a time. It was reported in 1851 that the Austrian 
Lloyds were even contemplating an arrangement with American 
and Dutch steamship interests for the development of their own 
comprehensive scheme of communication and transportation in 
Asiatic waters. 100 

This situation gave rise to grave apprehensions in the minds 
of good imperialists. 

Our Indian Empire is now governed by orders transmitted 
through Egypt [said one of them]. It is not very states¬ 
manlike to trust to the possibility of sending couriers by way 
of the Euphrates and by Persia, when the couriers by the 
Euphrates must take their passage in a French steamer to 
Beyrout, and those through Persia in an Austrian to Trebi- 
zond. . . Should Great Britain be engaged in war with any 
European power . . . there can be no doubt that every at- 

09 On the Communications between Europe and India through Egypt, pp. iS, 195 
British Possessions in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australasia connected with England 
by the India and Australia Mail Steam Packet Company . . . p. 75 Park Pap., 1851, 
No. 349, p. 25. 

100 Ibid., 1851, No. 605, pp. 259-2655 ibid., 1851, No. 349, p. 225 On the 
Communications between Europe and India through Egypt, pp. 4, 5 j Asiatic 
Journal, 3d Ser., IV, 651. 



264 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

tempt would be made by our enemies to interrupt our com¬ 
munications with India through Egypt. All Europe regards 
this interruption as one of the severest wounds that the 
enemies of England can inflict on her power. . . A rapid 
means of communicating between India and Malta, both by 
means of the Red Sea and of the Persian Gulf, through 
Egypt and through Syria, would multiply ro-fold the 
resources of Britain, and secure the defences of our posses¬ 
sions from Canada to Hong Kong. . . 1(n 

Such warnings as this, however, were unheeded until the issues 
of a great mid-century European war, in which England was 
pitted against one of her rivals for hegemony in the Orient, 
brought public attention in England to focus on the political ad¬ 
vantages of having more than one route of access to the Indian 
Empire. 

In the rapid development of communication by the overland 
route, the railway had cooperated with the steam vessel. The 
opening of the Eastern Counties Railway from London to Dover 
and the Southwestern Railway from London to Southampton, 
supplanting the express coach by uniformly rapid and dependable 
service, subtracted hours from the time consumed in a distant 
journey and added infinitely to the comfort and convenience of 
travellers. 10 " For those who pursued the overland route through 
France, 103 the completion of railway lines between Calais and 
Paris and Marseilles were noteworthy achievements. By the 
middle of the century the most difficult link in the whole com¬ 
prehensive chain, for mails, passengers and goods, was the passage 
through Egypt. Although this had been vastly improved since 
the opening of the overland route, its development had not kept 
pace with mechanical evolution elsewhere. But projects were 
already well under way to remove the obstructing features of 
this land link, by the completion of a railway between Alexandria 
and Suez, or by the digging of a navigable canal through the land 

101 On the Communications between Europe and India through Egypt, p. 3. 
See Pari. Pap., 1S51, No. 349, p. 22. 

102 Gallery of Illustration 9 p, 9, C. W. Whitaker, in his History of Enfield 
(London, 190, p. 3$), speaks of a coach, displaced by the opening of the Eastern 
Counties Kail way, being bought by Thomas Waghorn for use in Egypt. 

103 The term a overland,” as has already been pointed out, originally referred 
to the land passage through Egypt. By 1S50 it had come to be applied customarily 
to the passage by one of several possible routes across the continent from the English 
Channel to some port on the Mediterranean, It was no longer needed to designate 
the Egyptian passage, since, for purposes of communication, there was but one main 
highway to the East. 



COMPREHENSIVE PLAN OF COMMUNICATION 265 

barrier. Thus might the overland route suffice for trade as well 
as for purposes of communication. 101 In 1820 it not infrequently 
required two months to make a voyage from London to Con¬ 
stantinople. A generation later Calcutta had been brought within 
half of that time-distance, and even Sydney, in the very heart of 
the antipodes, could be reached within the space of two months. 
Such rapid changes placed some strain on the imagination for a 
time, but by the middle of the nineteenth century the mind could 
grasp a trip from London to Lahore or from Southampton to 
Sydney as readily as from London one could envisage Constanti¬ 
nople, Beirut, or Alexandria a little earlier. 

Steam navigation [said a contemporary], mighty as its 
progress has been during the last ten years, is yet in its in¬ 
fancy. In the perfection of machineryj in the diminution of 
the expense of locomotive power; and in prevention of acci¬ 
dents, there is much scope for improvements which science, 
acting upon experience, will in time accomplish. . . There 
is no limit to the effects of steam power, which will work 
more changes in society than either the [magnetic] needle, 
gunpowder, or the art of printing. 105 

Such an enthusiastic statement was hardly overdrawn, when it 
is considered that nearly 100,000 letters were sent in each over¬ 
land mail, and nearly 2000 passengers made their way to and 
from India in 1843, in comparison with only 275 in 1839, 100 and 
when steam vessels had grown within a decade from pygmies of 
500 tons or less to relatively huge steamships of 1800 tons. 

Still more significant than mere growth of mails and increase 
in travel, more potent than increased tonnage and more frequent 
sailings, was the series of social changes in India inaugurated by 
rapid steam communication. No hint of the profound influence 
on native Indian life and thought which was to come from Eu¬ 
ropean ideas and methods was discernible in 1843. Yet already 
the first pages were being written in the drama of which the first 
act was the great Revolt of 1857, the second was the rise of swaraj 
and svoadeshi later in the century, while the third was written in 
terms of the late wide-spread program of passive resistance. 
European influences and institutions, producing unhealthy and 
dangerous reactions upon coming in contact with orientalism, 
would hardly have found their way to India to any extensive 
degree but for the steamship and new steam routes. 

104 On the Communications between Europe and India through j Egypt, pp. 16, 17. 

105 Asiatic Journal, 3d Ser., I, 567* 

106 P.CX 97/408, Report of C. A. Murray to Lord Palmerston, 6 June, 1847. 



CHAPTER XI 


DISPUTED GUARDIANSHIP OF THE ROUTES TO INDIA 

T HE whole fabric of the overland route, both before 
and after its formal opening in 1839, completely 
depended on the availability and constancy of the 
Egyptian section. Egypt was no less a vital link between East 
and West in the nineteenth than in any previous century. Or¬ 
dinarily the political situation in Egypt was of European concern 
because of only one set of interests — those relating to the use 
of the Red Sea. The overweening ambition of Mehemet Ali, 
however, which aimed at the creation of something akin to an 
Egyptian Empire, produced a very difficult situation in the dec¬ 
ade between 1830 and 1840. By extending his control from 
Egypt to include Arabia, Syria, and a part of Mesopotamia, thus 
dominating both natural routes between East and West, the Pasha 
contrived to produce a major European problem at the very 
moment when capital and science were prepared to embark upon 
the development of either or both of these routes. 

The signing of the Convention of Kutaya between the Pasha 
and the Porte on April 8, 1833, was popularly thought to be the 
termination of a situation threatening to the tranquillity of Eu¬ 
rope. As a guarantee of peace, however, it was an illusion. Rus¬ 
sia had not gained a commanding position at Constantinople from 
any idle or philanthropic motive, and neither Britain nor France 
could afford to contemplate Russian domination at the Porte. 
Even while Egyptian troops were being moved south of the 
Taurus Mountains in accordance with the late Convention, Rus¬ 
sian troops and diplomatic corps were busily making Constanti¬ 
nople into a Russian outpost. 1 Before the new British Ambassador 
at ^ the Porte, Lord Ponsonby, and the French Ambassador, Ad¬ 
miral Roussin, were altogether aware of the prestige gained by 

1 J. A. R. Marriott, The Eastern Question: An Historical Study in European 
Diplomacy (Oxford, 1917), p. 209 j 8. Goriaioow, Le Bosphore et Us Dardanelles 
(Paris, 1910), pp. 33—35} David Ross (Ed.)» Opinions of the European Press on the 
Eastern Question , p. 467. 


266 



GUARDIANSHIP OF THE ROUTES TO INDIA 267 

the Russian Ambassador, Count Alexis Orloff, he had been able 
to arrange a Russo-Turkish alliance embodied in a Convention 
signed at Unkiar-Skelessi. 2 The real kernel of this arrangement 
was contained in a secret article whereby, in return for Russian 
protection, ostensibly against Mehemet Ali, Turkey was bound 
to close the Dardanelles to the ships of war of any other Power. 

At a court where secrets seldom remained long under cover, 
this provision soon became known to the representatives of all the 
Great Powers. Immediately a furore arose. Notes of protesta¬ 
tion were sent by the British and French Governments to both 
Russia and Turkey, denouncing the dosing of the Straits. At 
Constantinople the French Ambassador blustered and threatened 
to break off relations with the Porte, and was only dissuaded from 
doing so by his British colleague. 3 Upon reflection, however, 
neither France nor Britain desired war, so they failed to find in 
the treaty a casus belli. For that matter, each of these Powers 
was too suspicious of the other to work fully in concert. The 
situation was much improved by a statement issued by the Tsar 
that he had no intention of acting upon the treaty privileges just 
obtained.' 1 

No sooner had the war spirit of the Powers begun to subside 
than it was again aroused by an unexpected incident. Although 
the native inhabitants of Syria had welcomed the Egyptians as 
deliverers from Turkish oppression but a short time before, they 
took occasion to revolt against their new masters soon after the 
signing of the Treaty of Unkiar-Skelessi. The Sultan glady gave 
encouragement to the uprising, and it was not difficult to see the 
hand of Russia both in the Syrian disturbances and in the poorly- 
veiled attitude of the Porte, for it was the Russian policy “to 
weaken both the rival powers, the easier to make them its prey 
afterwards.” B 

This was the situation when, in August, 1834, the British House 
of Commons voted to appropriate £20,000 for a steam survey of 

3 British and Foreign State Papers, XX, 1176-1180* £. Hertslet, Map of Europe 
by Treaty, II, 9*5-927. 

3 F. S. Rodkey, The Turco-Egyftian Question in the Relations of England, 
France, and Russia, 1832-1841 (Urbana, Ill., 1924), p, 30$ Ross, op. cit., p. 427. 

4 Marriott, op. cit., p, 21 ij The Melbourne Papers (Ed. by L. C. Sanders, 
London, 1889), pp. 337-3405 Barker, Syria and Egypt under the Last Five Sultans 
of Turkey, II, 191 j Maj. John Hall, England and the Orleans Monarchy (London, 
*9 I2 )> P- I 55- 

5 Asiatic Journal, XV, N.S., Ft. II, 94, 955 Ross, op. cit., p. 455, Lord Pon- 
sonby, British Ambassador at the Porte, was one who was unwilling to give Russia 
credit for the least sincerity in word or action. His attitude in this regard was 
maintained by almost all of his successors in office during the remainder of the 
century. Of these, Sir Stratford Canning (Lord Stratford de Redcliffe) was the 
most conspicuous Russophobe. 



268 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

the Euphrates River. In political circles this was considered to 
be a means of keeping in touch with developments in that part of 
western Asia with which Britain was most concerned and equivalent 
to serving notice upon the Tsar and upon Mehemet Ali, that 
along the natural lines to India British interests were to be main¬ 
tained regardless of the late events. It mattered little to the 
British Government under whose control lay the highway to In¬ 
dia as long as that highway was always open and safe. It was to 
be presumed that the occupation of Syria and Mesopotamia by 
Mehemet Ali would not in itself constitute a danger, but in view 
of the traditional friendship for Turkey and the degree of French 
influence with the Pasha, British feeling was, as stated by Lord 
Palmerston, that a Turkey is as good an occupier of the road to 
India as an active Arab sovereign would be.” 0 At the same time 
it was Palmerston’s opinion that “ the mistress of India cannot 
permit France to be mistress directly or indirectly of the road to 
her Indian dominions,” 7 which was equivalent to stating a British 
doctrine of paramount interest in those portions of the Near East 
through which ran the natural routes to the East. 8 

For more than four years after the signing of the Treaty of 
Unkiar-Skelessi the European political situation underwent no 
fundamental change, but enough incidents occurred to keep all of 
the Powers on the qui vive. Interest continued to focus on the 
route to India whenever Egyptian troops and Russian, Turkish, 
and French intrigues combined to foment difficulties of any sort. 
During this period Mehemet Ali was busily engaged in making 
real a nominal control over his new Syrian territories and Arabia. 
His object was apparently to solidify the conquests already made 
so that when the times were propitious his advance on Constan¬ 
tinople might be resumed with every chance of success. 

0 Sir Henry Lytton E. Bui we r, The Life of Henry John Temple , Viscount 
Palmerston (3 vols., London, 1870-1874), II, 145. 

7 Ibid.) II, 293. 

8 F. S. Rodkey states, however (op. dt, } p. to), that w Her [England’s] interests 
in the Near East had never been paramount. It was before the day when oil 
counted for much in the diplomatic affairs of nations, and the commercial route to 
India was still by way of the Cape of Good Hoped’ While it is true that for most 
kinds of goods the Cape route was not supplanted until after the opening of the 
Suez Canal, it is equally true that the shorter routes of communication not only in¬ 
fluenced, but very largely determined, British policy in the Near East after 1830, 
and, as these routes also offered possible avenues of invasion to rival powers, their 
guarding was one of the major considerations in British foreign policy. No other 
view will explain the extent of British participation in the Syrian crisis in 1839-1840, 
various campaigns in Persia, the Crimean War, opposition to the French Suez Canal 
Company, and the occupation of Egypt. A few new factors entered into the cam¬ 
paigns in Mesopotamia during the Great War, but the fundamental issues were 
much the same as formerly. See Victor Fontanier, Voyage dans Plnde far Ptgyfte 
et la Mer Rouge, I, z% 9. 



GUARDIANSHIP OF THE ROUTES TO INDIA 269 

The withdrawal of some of the Egyptian forces from Asia 
Minor in 1833 made possible the fitting out of an expedition for 
reduction of the several semi-independent tribes of Arabia. In 
1834 an Egyptian army of a few thousand well-trained troops 
proceeded in leisurely fashion through Arabia to the head of the 
Persian Gulf, receiving the submission of intervening peoples 
and levying tribute. 9 At the mouth of the Shaat-el-Arab, the 
Egyptian army established contact with an Egyptian fleet, which 
had been sent around from the Red Sea. For a short time the 
island of Bahrein, which occupies a strategic position in the Arabian 
Gulf, was occupied, but it was presently evacuated because of 
British protests. 10 British forces themselves took possession of the 
island in 1839 and maintained the place as a base of operations. 11 
Further Egyptian exploits in lower Mesopotamia were obstructed 
by the watchfulness of the Indian Navy. In view of British at¬ 
titude, Mehemet Ali fell back on his customary policy of making 
haste slowly, and while his forces remained in the vicinity of the 
Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea until 1840, their operations were 
confined chiefly to overawing the Arab tribes of the interior. 12 
By 1839 Egyptian forces had brought practically all of Arabia 
under control. The ports on the east shore of the Red Sea, in¬ 
cluding the important trading centers of Mocha and Jedda, had 
been occupied, and the presence of Egyptian forces in the vicinity 
of Aden undoubtedly exerted strong influence on the decision 
of British authorities to seize and garrison the place. 13 

It is not strange that during this period British policy with re¬ 
gard to Egypt was founded on the assumption that a ruler who 
was considered a protege by the French Government and whose 
administration contained so many French officials could not have 
friendly sentiments for Britain and was not to be trusted. A 
brilliant French officer, Colonel Seves, better known as Suleiman 

0 D. G. Hogarth, The Penetration of Arabia , pp. 84-87, 104, passim; Ains¬ 
worth, Narrative of the Euphrates Expedition, II, 198. It was feared for a time 
that Egyptian armies might march up the Tigris and undertake the conquest of 
Bagdad, and the Turkish Government urged the British to assist in preventing such 
a step. The Pasha refrained from threatening the city, however. 

10 Fontanier, op, rit. } I, 360—361. 

n Aitchison, A Collection of Treaties, Engagements and Sunnuds Relating to 
India and Neighbouring Countries, VII, 35—40. 

13 Victor Fontanier states that at his suggestion Egyptian forces captured and 
plundered the Persian town of Mohammerah because Col. Chesney, in the name of 
his Government, had taken its sheik under British protection. — Fontanier, op. cit., 
I, 308, 361-378. 

13 H. E. Egerton, British Foreign Policy in Europe (London, 1918), p. 1895 
Park Pap., 1840, No. 277, p. 1915 ibid., 1841, No. [323.], Pt. II, 299, 300. 
Estimates of the size of the Pasha’s army vary from 2500 to 10,000 men. The 
numbers had undoubtedly been considerably reduced by 1839. 



270 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


Pasha, had charge of the Egyptian War Office, and to his energy 
and ability may be ascribed much of the effectiveness of the Pasha’s 
troops. M. de Cerisy, a naval expert from Toulon, remodeled 
the Egyptian fleet and placed it on a war basis,” while one of his 
fellow countrymen, M. Besson, provided armament and trained 
soldiers. Other Frenchmen served in various other capacities. Kl 
In England little note was taken of the fact that the Pasha was 
more concerned with efficient and loyal service than with the 
nationality of his servants. Englishmen who proved their worth 
were not infrequently rewarded and honored also. But at all 
events, the desire of the British Government to recover its former 
prestige at Constantinople as a check on the dangerous intrigues 
of Russia necessitated a program of opposition to Mehemet 
Ali’s plans for aggrandizement. 

The activities of Mehemet Ali after his peace with the Sultan 
were the straws indicating which way the wind blew. Particularly 
they reflected the relations of Egypt and France and determined 
the relations of France and Britain. From having urged Mehemet 
Ali to come to terms with his liege in 1833, the French returned 
to a policy of abetting and conspiring with the Pasha. As a re¬ 
sult, almost immediately after Anglo-French cooperation and 
accord had secured the peace of Europe by patching up relations 
between the Sultan and the Pasha and had forced Russia to 
content herself with only the moral fruits of her diplomatic vic¬ 
tory at Unkiar-Skelessi, Anglo-French relations became notice¬ 
ably cooler. In 1834 an American observer in Egypt reported 
to his home government that “ France regards Egypt as a quasi 
colony, and aspires to its possession. Egypt looks’ to France for 
science and art, and France anticipates a predominance in her 
councils, in. the contingency of future wars in Europe or Asia.” 1,1 
British political leaders of whatever party found it impossible 
to continue in harmony with a nation so fully determined to 
maintain a strong hegemony in, if not actually to control, the 
countries through which intercourse between the Mediterranean 
and Indian Ocean must take its way. 

The continuation of a vigorous French policy in Algeria, where 
the hinterland was being penetrated and whence Tunis was threat¬ 
ened, 17 raised great indignation in England. The Mediterranean 

14 Edward Robinson, Biblical Researches in Palestine, II, 499. 

Marriott, op. cit., p. 204; William Miller, The Ottoman Empire and Its 

Successors , p. 145. 

16 W. H. Hodgson, in a report to the State Department of the U. S. Government, 

quoted in Rodkey, op. p. 44 n. 

r ” Magazine, XLVIII, 587; Hall, op. cit., pp. 225-227; H. Lorin, 

LAfrtque du Nord; 1 untsie — Algerie — Maroc, pp, 26-27, passim. 



GUARDIANSHIP OF THE ROUTES TO INDIA 271 

began to take on the appearance of a “ French lake.” 18 The Eng¬ 
lish press launched a barrage of bitter invective against the French 
program in Africa, characterizing it as “ an act of as unjustifiable 
rapine as the worst of Napoleon’s . . . of as rude a policy as if it 
had been perpetrated by a Tartar horde.” 19 A pronounced spirit 
of jingoism pervaded the foreign comment in which some of the 
more conservative English journals joined. 20 

However, most of the morbid raving at French Algerian en¬ 
terprises would have been left unvoiced but for French initiative 
in Egypt. Here the French had given rise to grave anxiety in 
times past when distances were greater and the country was in 
decentralized confusion. Now that they came as the allies of an 
able and powerful autocrat, the situation was alarming, and state¬ 
ments of purpose in the French press and even in the Chamber 
of Deputies gave plenty of ground for apprehension. 21 Additional 
color was lent to English fears by the activities of French agents 
elsewhere in the East: in Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia, and even 
in India. 22 

A great reason for the Pasha’s regard for the French became 
apparent in connection with the renewal of hostilities in Syria. 
From the first Mehemet Ali had regarded his Convention with 
the Porte in the light of a truce, to be broken whenever conditions 
should warrant. In this purpose he was upheld both by the advice 
of his French officers and the friendly sentiments of the French 
Government. The Pasha’s preparations for a renewal of the war 
with Turkey were scarcely veiled. 23 He improved military dis¬ 
cipline, collected large depots of war supplies principally from 
France, and kept up the morale of his troops by frequent incur- 

18 B/it. and For . St. Pap., XXII, 254—255, 351 j The Melbourne Papers, pp. 
33 7 *“ 34 °j 464-465. 

iy Blackwood's Magazine, XLII, 686. Here appears a long and bitter arraign¬ 
ment of French motives and policy since the accession of Napoleon Bonaparte. 

“° Ibid., XLVII, 217j Edinburgh Review, LI, 565—566$ Dublin Review, IV, 
179; Ammal Register, 1840, pp. 17 r—179. The letter from Lord Palmerston to 
Lord John Russell of 29 Sept., 1840, quoted by Prof. G. P. Gooch in The Cambridge 
Historical Journal, I (1924), 176, is interesting. 

21 Comte S. M. de Cressate, La Syrie Frangahe (Paris, 1915), pp. 18-33, 
passim; Fontanier, op. cit., I, 227, 272—273 j Rodkey, op. cit., p. 69. 

22 Fontanier, op. cit., I, 347 5 II, 53-81; Asiatic Journal, XXX, N.S., Pt. II, 
259 j Sir Henry Layard, Early Adventures in Persia, Susiqna and Babylonia (2 vols., 
London, 1887), I, 255, 2655 Geo. N. Curzon, Persia and the Persian Question (2 
vols., London, 1892), I, 595—596. 

23 In 1835 Lord Ponsonby made official representations to the Turkish Govern¬ 
ment that treaties of commerce between England and Turkey were not being carried 
out in the territories under the Pasha^ rule. The Porte thereupon addressed a firman 
to Mehemet Ali (24 Dec.), commanding him to facilitate British trade (and in¬ 
cidentally the Euphrates Expedition) in every way possible. — Brit, and For. St. 
Pap., XXIII, 1291, 1292. 



272 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

sions against the Arabs. His purposes were so obvious and so in¬ 
timately connected with the peace of Europe that early in 1838 
Lord Palmerston instructed the British Consul-General in Egypt, 
Col. Patrick Campbell, to warn Mehemet Ali against attacking 
Turkish territory and to ask for an explanation of his extensive 
military preparations. 2 ' 1 

The Pasha stated in formal reply that he had not the remotest 
intention of conquering any of the Sultan’s territory. Neverthe¬ 
less, Col. Campbell felt impelled again to report to his Govern¬ 
ment, as he had previously, that he was convinced from private 
conversations with the Pasha that he was intending presently to 
assert his independence and to maintain it by force, if necessary. 
Palmerston instructed that the Pasha be warned again of the dan¬ 
ger of taking any aggressive step against Turkey, stating at the 
same time that Great Britain would necessarily be drawn into the 
matter should any such act occur. However, Mehemet Ali per¬ 
sisted both in his plans for declaring himself independent and in 
strengthening his army and navy, believing, no doubt, that with the 
support of France and the influence on Great Britain of the Indian 
route, which had lately been opened up through Egypt, he would 
be secure from Egyptian intervention in the event of hostilities. 25 
Not long afterward the Sultan, unable to tolerate longer the 
treasonable preparations of his vassal, threw down the gauntlet 
and brought all of Europe to the verge of war. 

The Egyptian situation was linked up with other and some¬ 
what similar problems farther east. In those countries forming 
a corridor from the Mediterranean to the confines of India, po¬ 
litical conditions were little more satisfactory to British interests 
during the thirties than were those in Egypt. In this sphere 
Russian and not French aggression was the source of concern and 
this was not a small factor in the working out of the Egyptian 
question. During these years there could be little doubt of the 
existence of Russian intrigues all along the corridor to India. 
As Palmerston put it, soon after the Treaty of Unkiar-Skelessi: 

With Russia we are just as we were, snarling at each other, 
hating each other, but neither wishing for war. Their last 
communication on Eastern affairs is anything but satisfac¬ 
tory. However, there is nothing at present done by us, be¬ 
cause there is no danger of anything being done by them. 
They cannot return to Turkey unless invited by the Sultan, 
and the Sultan will not invite them unless he is again at- 

24 Brit, and For. St. Pap., XXVI, 69+. 

25 Ibid*) 695-7045 Hall, of. cit.) pp, 239-240. 



GUARDIANSHIP OF THE ROUTES TO INDIA 273 

tacked by Mehemet Ali; but Mehemet Ali will not stir as 

long as we beg him not to do so, because he knows that our 

fleet could effectually prevent him. . . Our policy as to the 

Levant is to remain quiet, but remain prepared. . . 20 

But this note also indicates why, in spite of a uniformly hostile 
feeling in England toward everything Russian, 27 Anglo-Russian 
relations tended to improve, while those with France became in¬ 
creasingly unsatisfactory. Turkey was again returning to the 
British fold. The French, in consequence, could not be forgiven 
for their entrenched position athwart the overland route, while 
the greater arrogance of the Russians in the Middle East failed 
to check the constantly improving relations between the British 
and Russian Governments after 1834. 

Even in outline, the charges which might have been preferred 
against Russia look serious. The Tsar’s Government protested 
strongly to the Porte against the firman issued for the Euphrates 
Expedition in i834. 2s Russian agents, many of them in disguise, 
were scattered throughout the countries of western Asia, and not 
infrequently were detected in India itself. 29 Twice during the 
decade from 1830 to 1840 Russian dealings with Persia almost led 
to a rupture of Anglo-Russian relations. 

The first of these occurred in 1833 at the time of Russian 
moves on Turkey, when British officers and equipment reenforced 
the Persian armies in the field, where hostilities with the Russians 
were taking place spasmodically. 30 Shortly afterward Russian 
agents, filtering into Persia, weaned that state away from the 
British, proposing joint operations against the states bordering 
India. Henry Ellis, the British representative in Persia, reported 
to Lord Palmerston in 1835 that “ The Shah has very extended 

20 Bulwer, of. cit., II, 182-183 5 Hall, op. cit p. 220. From this it becomes 
apparent that one of the greatest agencies for peace was the British fleet. England 
was not without a war group, however. An able article in the British and Foreign 
Review concluded with the statements that “ To England, a war opens up positive 
advantages, independent of the object,” and that Russia could succeed in Turkey 
u only by preventing any collision from taking place” Quoted in Ross, of. cit., 
pp. 480-482. 

27 David Urquhart, Turkey and Its Resources . . . (London, 1833) j Le Sultan 
et le Pacha d'&gypte (London, 1839), two pamphlets by the famous polemical 
writerj Anon., Progress and Present Position of Russia in the East (London, 1836) ; 
A static Journal, XXI, N.S., Pt. I, 8 5. 

2H Martens, Recueil des Trahes, N.S., III, 760-762. 

20 Fontanier, op. cit., I, 290-291; II, 75. 

30 P. M. Sykes, A History of Persia, II, 428, passim $ Fontanier, op. cit., I, 346, 
II, 199, 200. Fontanier believed that the English were largely responsible for the 
troubles in this theatre. Their intrigues, he said, “ had a character of avowed 
hostility to Russia, and leave a long way behind the manoeuvres of which they 
reproach that power.” 



274 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

schemes of conquest in the direction of Afghanistan, ^and . . • 
conceives that the right of sovereignty over Herat and Khandahat 
is . . . complete. . . This pretension is much sustained by the 
suggestions of Col. Borowski.” 31 And in November, 1836, the 
Government of India sent a despatch to John McNeill, newly 
accredited to the Persian Court, stating that — 

The political interests of Great Britain and of British In¬ 
dia are even more concerned than their commercial interests 
in the exemption of the countries betwen India and Persia 
from foreign aggression from the westward. The lately 
contemplated expedition against Herat, if it was not 
prompted, was, as is well known, strenuously urged on the 
attention of the Persian Government by the Russian Am¬ 
bassador, and the pertinacity with which the Persian Gov¬ 
ernment has persisted in this design, in spite of the remon¬ 
strances of His Britannic Majesty’s Ambassador ... is of 
itself a sufficient ground for apprehending the existence of 
some ulterior and unfriendly design towards our interests. 3 " 

McNeill, who had been sent to Persia to counteract anti-British 
influences, was able to accomplish little. He managed to secure 
a firman from the Shah, giving English merchants such com¬ 
mercial privileges as had previously been accorded to Russia; 
and the Euphrates Expedition was thus enabled to operate in 
Persian territory along the Karun and lower Tigris Rivers. 33 But 
he was not able to dissuade Mohamed Shah from undertaking a 
siege of Herat, in which a Russian force was expected to co¬ 
operate. Here, after giving final notice that Great Britain could 
not remain an idle spectator in the projected hostilities, McNeill 
broke off diplomatic relations. It was only by the timely aid fur¬ 
nished by British Indian officers that the Persian attack was 
foiled. 84 

The breach with Persia was healed almost as quickly as it was 
created. In May, 1838, while the siege of Herat was still in 
progress, the Governor-General of India, Lord Auckland, reached 
the conclusion that a naval demonstration against the Persian coast 
might produce a salutary effect on the attitude of the Persian 

31 _ Frit. and For. St. Paf ., XXIII, 864. See the pamphlet by E. Stirling, On the 

Political State of the Countries between Persia and India (London, 1835). 

32 Brit, and For. St. Paf., XXV, 124.7, 1253. 

33 Ibid., XXIV, 769. McNeill became conspicuous years later in connection 
with a projected Euphrates Valley Railway. 

Ibid., XXIV, 12895 Asiatic Journal, XXVI, N.S., Pt. II, 276} Low, History 
of the Indian Navy, II, 98. 



GUARDIANSHIP OF THE ROUTES TO INDIA 275 

Government as it had on other occasions. Accordingly he gave 
instructions that the Bombay Government prepare a portion of 
the Indian Navy for such an expedition “ at the earliest practicable 
period.” 30 The naval squadron prepared for this service, led 
by the new steam frigate S emir amis, which had just come out from 
England, left Bombay early in June. The expedition proceeded 
to the mouth of the Persian Gulf, touched at Mascat and Bushire, 
and concentrated on the island of Karrack, where troops and stores 
were landed and the island temporarily taken over. Since this 
position dominated the town of Bushire, the most important Per¬ 
sian seaport, it was hoped that this “ demonstration ” would suc¬ 
ceed without the necessity of bombarding the port or undertaking 
a land campaign. 30 

The expedition succeeded in its immediate object. Being unable 
to seize Herat and doubtful of his Russian allies, the Shah trem¬ 
bled at the prospect of losing his principal seaport, and adopted 
a conciliatory tone. On August 14, he sent a despatch to the 
Indian Government consenting to all British demands. He 
added, “ Were it not for the sake of the friendship of the British 
Government, we should not return from before Herat. Had we 
known that our coming here might risk the loss of their friend¬ 
ship, we certainly would not have come at all.” 37 Early in Sep¬ 
tember the siege of Herat was lifted, the Persian forces retired, 
and normal relations were presently established with British in¬ 
fluence again predominant. 33 

The return of Persia to the British fold did not entirely remove 
the Russian menace from India. As long as the Afghans in Herat 
held out, British India appeared safe: the passes were secure. But 
unexpectedly, before the Persians had withdrawn from Afghan 
territory, the Amir, Dost Mohammed, came to terms with the 
Russians, and formed an alliance whereby Russia was to assume 
protection over this frontier state. The news of this development 
created a great deal of excitement in the presidencies and caused 
no little unrest among the native Indian states, where Russian 

35 Low, of. tit., II, 98. 

m A static Journal , XXVI, N.S., Pt. II, 27 $“-276, The British Resident at 
Bushire had been insulted and forced to leave in March. 

37 Low, of. tit., II, 99; Parliamentary Paper , 1839, No. [171.], cc Cor¬ 
respondence Relating to Persia and Afghanistan.” 

as p ar i m paf., 1842, No. [354.], p. 125. Whether the Indian Government had 
intended to retain Karrack as a permanent base is not known, though there are 
indications of such a plan. The place proved to be so pestiferous, however, that the 
troops were withdrawn as quickly as possible after the demonstration had served 
its purpose. Hardly a soldier was fit for duty at one time. — Asiatic Journal , 
XXIX, N.S., Pt. II, 213 J ibid., XXXIII, N.S., Pt. II, 2105 ibid., XXXVII, N.S., 
Pt II, 46, 216; ibid. XXXIX N.S., Pt. II, 288} ibid., XL, N.S., Pt. II, 45. 



a76 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

agents had already sowed the seeds of revolt. 39 The outlook was 
very dark, indeed. How great the Russian peril really was has 
never been determined. 40 British army officers who had made 
their way through Afghanistan as far as the frontiers of Russia 
a few years earlier insisted that it was highly improbable that a 
Russian army could have successfully invaded India because of 
the difficulty of depending on such a long line of communications.' 11 
However, in India the danger appeared real and imminent, and 
steps were immediately taken by the Government of India to 
meet it. Early in r 839 an Indian army invaded Afghanistan, took 
the principal towns, Khandahar and Kabul, and occupied the 
country until the danger from Russia had subsided. Into the un¬ 
fortunate denouement we can not enter. 

The campaign was not without its naval phase. The port of 
Kurrachee, in Baluchistan, had been surveyed as a possible point 
of vantage in the previous year. In February, x 839, a squadron of 
vessels of the Indian Navy attacked the place as a feudatory pos¬ 
session of the Afghan state. The protecting fort and the town 
were taken and occupied with ease, and Britain thus came into 
possession of the second best harbor in India. Because of the great 
strategic and commercial value of the port, it was retained at the 
close of the campaign as one of the most important outposts of 
the northwest frontier. 42 

While the outcome of the international situation in the Middle 
East was still in doubt, the situation in the Levant resolved itself 
into an active crisis. When Mehemet Ali announced early in 
1838 that he was determined to declare his independence and es¬ 
tablish his own dynasty in Egypt and Syria, the Sultan, Mahmud, 
who had thus far relied on the attitude of the Great Powers to 

39 Sykes, of. cit., II, 423; Pari. Pop., 1839, No. [171.], pp. 176—205. The 
Russian Government at the same time formally stated that they harbored no designs 
on India. 

40 Curzon, of. cit., II, 606 . Lord Curzon is inclined to think the real danger 
from Russia was much exaggerated. 

41 Lieut. Arthur Conolly, Journey to the North of India, Overland from Eng¬ 
land, through Russia, Persia, and Afghanistan (2 vols., London, 1834) $ Lieut. A. 
Burnes, Travels into the Bokhara, being the Account of a Journey from India to 
Cabool, Tartary, and Persia (3 vols. London, 1834)5 Journal of the Royal Geo - 
grafhical Society of London, IV, 278-3175 ibid., V, 297-3055 Ross, of. cit., pp. 
410-429. See H. C. Rawlinson, England and Russia in the East, pp. 139 if. 

42 Low, of. cit., II, 100-104; Alexander F. Baillie, Kurrachee (Karachi ) 5 
Past % Present; and Future (Calcutta, etc., 1890), pp. 27-31. Kurrachee proved to 
be a worthy rival of Bombay not many years later, and since 1839 has been looked 
upon as a very essential link in the chain of communications binding India with 
England, because of the location of the city both with reference to possible railway 
and air lines crossing Asia and to the Suez Canal. 



GUARDIANSHIP OF THE ROUTES TO INDIA 277 

prevent his domains from being further disrupted, determined 
to employ his own resources, if necessary, to prevent the consum¬ 
mation of the designs of his vassal. He encouraged the war party 
at Constantinople, raised new levies of troops, and sent extensive 
reenforcements into Asia Minor. 

The Great Powers were slow to read in these preparations any 
serious intention on the part of the Turks. Nevertheless, when it 
became apparent that Mahmud meant to challenge Mehemet Ali, 
whether supported by the Powers or not, considerable diplomatic 
activity was inspired. Russia was especially anxious to prevent 
hostilities, fearing that in case Russian troops again made their 
appearance in Turkish territory to bolster up the Sultan, a break 
with England and France could not be averted. 13 For similar 
reasons the other Powers employed their good offices both with 
the Sultan and with the Viceroy of Egypt to prevent further war¬ 
like preparations. The Treaty of Unkiar-Skelessi was, to Britain 
and France, a powerful deterrent. 

In 1839, the whole Eastern Question, which had previously 
been realized but scarcely defined, resolved itself clearly in so far 
as the interests of the Powers in the Turkish Empire were con¬ 
cerned. Obviously, in making any settlement of the Eastern 
Question, the difficulty lay in securing the adhesion of both Russia 
and France to any general arrangement. British interests could be 
made to agree with the one or with the other, but hardly with 
both. 

The geographical position of Russia demanded the recognition 
of her interests, if not her hegemony, in the outlet from the 
Black to the Mediterranean Sea. 4 * To permit either Britain or 
France to dictate Turkish policies would defeat that aim. France, 
on the other hand, having sentimental interests in Syria and com¬ 
mercial ones in Egypt, felt impelled to assert herself as the nat¬ 
ural protector of an Egyptian prince who would safeguard those 
interests. Her cue was to prevent either Russian or British dom¬ 
inance at Constantinople and to encourage the claims of the Vice¬ 
roy of Egypt for independence. As Constantinople was the goal 
of Russia, Alexandria was the focus of French aims. British in¬ 
terests were seriously involved at both points. It was equally 
important to prevent Russian dominance at Constantinople and 
French control at Alexandria. A war between the Sultan and 
the Viceroy might easily bring Russian forces again into Stamboul 
in accordance with the treaty of Unkiar-Skelessi. The Turks 
thus reenforced might then drive back Egyptian armies and re- 

43 Pari. Paf.j 1841, No. [322.], Pt. I, 5-9. 

44 See Rodkey, of. cit. y pp. 75 fL 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


278 

cover Syria, but in that case Russia would probably remain en¬ 
trenched at the narrow straits and have in her keeping the route 
to India through Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf. This 
was an eventuality which the British could not afford to risk. If 
the French succeeded in confirming the hold of Mehemet Ali 
on Syria, they would, in consequence, dominate both of the natural 
routes to India, which was unthinkable. 45 Austria and Prussia, 
having no vital interests in the Levant, were, nevertheless, vi¬ 
tally concerned with perpetuating the European concert. Their 
influence, therefore, was placed in support of the program 
which promised most to keep the peace and solve the Eastern 
Question. 

In April, 1839, the Sultan, believing his armies prepared for 
battle, refused to heed the restraining counsels of the ambas¬ 
sadorial group at Constantinople and ordered his forces into action 
against those of Mehemet Ali. The Turkish Army moved into 
territory occupied by the Egyptian forces on April 21, and 
offered to give battle. The latter, however, while anxious to try 
conclusions with their enemies, were held back by the Viceroy, 
pending further negotiations with representatives of the Powers. 
Hoping to enlist the support of the arbiters of European affairs 
by a show of moderation, he offered to withdraw his troops from 
a part of the contested area if the Turks would do likewise, and 
stated that if he were granted Egypt and the major portion of the 
occupied territory in hereditary possession, he would give definite 
guarantees for a beneficial administration. 46 United action by the 
Powers at Constantinople at this juncture might have brought an 
agreement and a suspension of hostilities. But while the French 
Ambassador, Admiral Roussin, urged the Porte to put a stop to 
the advance, the British Ambassador, Lord Ponsonby, who was 
personally hostile to the whole program of Mehemet Ali, en¬ 
couraged the campaign already begun. The upshot of it was, 
therefore, that although Ibrahim Pasha had been instructed to 
avoid a clash with Turkish troops as long as possible, he was un¬ 
able to do so without actually effecting a retreat. A decisive en¬ 
gagement took place on June 21, in which the Turkish army was 
routed and completely demoralized. Ibrahim Pasha, fully 
aroused by frequent Turkish raids and the opportunity presented 
by the victory, was intent on following up his success, when he 
was checked by the arrival of new orders from Egypt to take every 
precaution to avoid coming to blows. 47 

is Pari. Paf., 1840, No. 277, “ Report on Egypt and Candia,” p. 4. 

48 Ibid , 1841, No. [322.], Pt. I, 21 23, fauim. P 

47 Ibid., pp. 140-146; Hall, of. tit., pp. 238-242. 



GUARDIANSHIP OF THE ROUTES TO INDIA 279 

Meanwhile, the French and British Governments, anxious to 
preserve their nominal alliance and desirous of effecting an ar¬ 
rangement which would adjust the Syrian tangle, had been tem¬ 
porizing. 18 Each hoped to secure cooperation with the other 
on its own terms. Palmerston, conscious of the fact that he held 
the whip hand, and confident that none of the Powers would con¬ 
sider the issue as one which could seriously disrupt European re¬ 
lations, spoke as one on whom the burden of settlement primarily 
rested. The French not only resented his tacit assumption that 
the problem was one chiefly affecting British interests, but ex¬ 
pected, by playing off the danger to be anticipated from Russia, to 
effect a settlement on their own terms. The result was that the 
two Powers rapidly drifted apart. By relying solely on a thread¬ 
bare alliance, the alliance itself was put in jeopardy.' 19 The Rus¬ 
sian Government, meanwhile, anxious to destroy the Anglo-French 
pact, employed tact and concessions at the proper moment to at¬ 
tain the desired result. The Tsar issued formal statements that 
the movements of his forces in Persia and the Middle East in¬ 
dicated not the slightest designs on India, and at the same time, 
through his representative at the Court of St. James, signified his 
readiness to adhere to a settlement of the Eastern Question on 
British terms. Austria and Prussia, acting as usual in concert, and 
concerned more with an early settlement of a dangerous question 
than with the minor details of such a settlement, were willing to 
support either France or Russia in conjunction with Great Britain. 

The Egyptian victory of June, 1839, considerably complicated 
matters. In the first place, it made any compromise between the 
Sultan and his vassal exceedingly difficult. In the second place, 
it greatly strengthened the French demands that Mehemet Ali 
be confirmed in hereditary possession of his conquests, a point 
to which the English Cabinet could hardly agree, while Russia’s 
refusal to take advantage of the Treaty of Unkiar-Skelessi and 
her willingness to leave to the British the physical protection of the 
Turkish cause reenforced the position held by the English Foreign 
Secretary. The point of common agreement among the Powers 
was that the integrity of the Ottoman Empire should be preserved 
and that Mehemet Ali should receive some formal recognition. 
The issue hinged largely on the disposition of Syria. 

The French believed that by persuading Mehemet Ali to 
adopt a pacific policy in Syria and to modify his original demands 
they were gradually leading the way to a settlement. 50 In this 

48 Annual Register , 184.1, pp. 5-16. 

49 Rodkey, op, ctL, pp. 123—1245 Hall, op, ci£. } pp. 252 fL 

50 Rodkey, op. cit., pp. 127—128. 



280 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

belief they were rudely disillusioned, however, when on July 15, 
1840, the representatives of the four Powers, Great Britain, 
Prussia, Austria, and Russia, signed a Convention for the Pacifi¬ 
cation of the Levant without reference to and without the 
knowledge of France. Russia, by abandoning the Treaty of Un- 
kiar-Skelessi, had won a diplomatic victory. France was isolated 
and the Anglo-French alliance was destroyed. 

According to the terms of the new Convention, the Sultan 
promised — 

To grant to Mehemet Ali, for himself and for his descend¬ 
ants in the direct line, the administration of the Pashalik of 
Egyptj and ... to grant to Mehemet Ali for his life, 
with the title of Pasha of Acre, and with the command of 
the fortress of St. Jean d’Acre, the administration of the 
southern part of Syria. . . 51 

The offer was conditioned, however, by provisions that Mehemet 
Ali was to make complete submission and to accept the Con¬ 
vention within a few days to make it effective in all its parts. 
Among themselves the Powers thought to solve a difficult ques¬ 
tion by writing into the Convention that the Bosphorus and the 
Dardanelles were to be at all times closed to vessels of war. 
Thus, a setdement had been provided, although it did not rep¬ 
resent the whole of the Concert of Europe, and lacking the sig¬ 
nature of France its value was somewhat problematical. 02 It was 
also doubtful whether the Pasha would peacefully acquiesce in 
the conditions, as he had not been consulted with regard to them, 
nor had his case been represented by a friendly Power. 

A few days after the Convention had been signed, Lord Palm¬ 
erston made known its contents to Guizot, then French Am¬ 
bassador in London. Guizot’s feelings of pique and chagrin, 
however, were hardly a symptom of the storm of rage and dis¬ 
approval which burst from the French capital upon receipt of the 
news from London. Not only the Foreign Minister, Thiers, and 
the French Cabinet, but the whole of the French nation, recover¬ 
ing from the momentary shock of discovering that England had 
deserted the French alliance for one with Russia, burst into a par¬ 
oxysm of hate and denunciation of a per fide Albion .” 63 By way 
of giving vent to wounded pride, the Government immediately 
took steps, hurried on by the popular war clamor, to place France 

51 Sir E. Hertslet, Map of Europe by Treaty, II, 1005. 

52 The Camb. Hist, Joum I, 172. 

53 Annual Register , 1840, p. [172]. 



GUARDIANSHIP OF THE ROUTES TO INDIA 281 


in a high state of defence and to bring the army and navy to full 
war strength. Several members of the British Cabinet were con¬ 
vinced that France meant to avenge the slight by a resort to war, 
and when the French asked that the treaty of July 15 be super¬ 
seded by another, couched in similar terms, to which she could 
subscribe, there was a momentary inclination not only in the 
British Cabinet, but in the councils of Austria and Prussia, to make 
the compromise. Palmerston remained convinced, however, that 
France could not go to the length of declaring war, and stub¬ 
bornly refused to concede even minor points which would have 
been a salve to French amour-prof re and which could hardly have 
injured British prestige. The French, therefore, had no choice 
but to resume more definitely than ever their championship of 
Mehemet Ali and to continue war preparations. 51 

Meanwhile, the Convention of July 15 had been presented to 
and readily approved by the Porte. An ultimatum stating the 
substance of the Convention was thereupon despatched to the Vice¬ 
roy, while new disorders were encouraged in his Syrian territories. 
The outcome was much as anticipated. Mehemet Ali scornfully 
refused to accept the offer of the Powers in the name of the Sultan, 
believing that his own resources were adequate for maintaining 
his conquests. In this position he was encouraged by the French 
agent, Count Walewski, who urged the Pasha to hold out for 
better terms than those lately accorded him. Mehemet Ali there¬ 
fore suffered the ultimatum to expire without acceding to its 
terms, although he intimated to the consuls of the Powers in 
Alexandria that if he were given the whole of Syria for his life 
and Egypt as an hereditary possession he would submit. 

The British Government had meanwhile determined to com¬ 
pel the Viceroy to accept such terms as were offered him, even 
at the risk of wholly terminating the friendly relations which had 
heretofore subsisted. 05 Instructions were therefore forwarded to 
Admiral Stopford, commanding the British fleet in the Mediter¬ 
ranean, that all communication between Egypt and Syria by sea 
should be cut off and that the fleet should be prepared to execute 
further measures in case Mehemet Ali should refuse to accede to 
the demands of the Powers. Admiral Stopford divided his naval 

54 Admiral Sir Charles Napier, The War m Syria (2 vols., London, 1842), 
I, 29 f. 

65 Palmerston’s policy was very unpopular throughout with a considerable body 
of English merchants, who believed that in order to satisfy his wilful pride he 
would have had no hesitation in bringing their Egyptian interests to complete ruin. 
See William Cargill, Mehemet Alt; Lord Palmerston; Russia and France (London, 
1840). 



282 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

forces into two sections, the better to carry out his duties, one 
contingent under Commodore Sir Charles Napier being left to 
cruise off the coast of Syria, while the other sailed to blockade the 
harbor of Alexandria. Early in September the two sections of the 
fleet were reunited, and on September 11 the Egyptian forces at 
Beirut under Suleiman Pasha were commanded to withdraw/' 8 
As the reply was unsatisfactory, the British fleet, lately reenforced 
by two Austrian frigates, commenced a bombardment on the for¬ 
tifications of the town. The Egyptians were forced to withdraw 
from the place, and a little later it was occupied by an allied force 
of marines. 57 The Porte followed the news of this action with a 
firman decreeing the deposition of Mehemet Ali, and the blockade 
of both Egypt and Syria. 

These and other operations indicated at once the determination 
of the Powers to settle the Eastern Question on their own terms 
and the inability of Mehemet Ali long to resist. They also served 
notice to the world that the French attitude was not to be taken 
into account in concluding the issue. On their part, the French 
Government were at their wits’ end upon learning of the bombard¬ 
ment of Beirut. The first reaction was a new upflaring of war 
spirit. More troops were mobilized and emergency military meas¬ 
ures were taken. The Thiers administration, which had already 
threatened to appeal to arms, although anxious to avoid actually 
coming to blows, felt compelled to demand concessions from the 
Allies or to go the full length of the threat. Again the Powers 
hesitated to adhere to their plan of acting without France and 
again the masterful Palmerston carried his point. 08 

At this juncture Louis Philippe asserted himself to prevent 
the eventuality of a European war. He had refrained from 
acting previously, believing that Mehemet Ali would prove too 
strong for the ready execution of the allied plans and that in con¬ 
sequence concessions would be made to France. Despairing of 
this at last, he determined to admit defeat with such grace as he 
could muster. Thiers was relieved of his office and a new ministry 
was formed with the pacific and sensible Guizot, erstwhile Am¬ 
bassador to the Court of St. James, as the principal member. It 
became the task of the new ministry to recover for France a place 
in the councils of Europe by such means as might be found/ 0 

56 Napier, of. tit., I, 55. 

. 57 A sma11 British force was meanwhile operating along the middle Euphrates 
with two steam gunboats, and “ their presence acted as a diversion against Ibrahim 
Pasha in eastern Syria and . . . exercised a considerable influence during the war 
with Mehemet Ali*” — Low, History of the Indian Navy y II, 47. 

58 G. P. Gooch, in The Camb . Hist. Joum. } I, 176; Hall, op. cit pp. 280-28^ 
292-305. 

59 Annual Register , 1839, P- 3 6i > Rodkey, of. dt. y pp* 187-193. 



GUARDIANSHIP OF THE ROUTES TO INDIA 283 

The Powers of the Concert were vastly relieved and pleased 
at this move. Those who had lately blamed Palmerston as blinded 
by antagonism and bent on war now hailed him as the wisest 
statesman in Europe. For the moment he was without a rival in 
the courts of the Powers. He chose to use his power, not to make 
concessions to the vanquished, but to complete in more arrogant 
fashion than ever the subjection of Egypt. The fate of Mehemet 
Ali was decreed in London without regard to the willingness of 
France to participate on almost any terms in the final settlement 
of the Eastern Question. On November 14, 1840, the pleni¬ 
potentiaries of the four Powers signed a memorandum, advising 
the Sultan to modify his attitude toward his vassal, and upon com¬ 
plete submission to confirm him in his former position as Pasha. 
A copy of this note was sent to Mehemet Ali with the recom¬ 
mendation that he instantly comply with its provisions. Simul¬ 
taneously, his forces in Syria were subjected to new attacks both 
by sea and land in order to hasten his decision. A combined force 
of British marines, Austrians, and Turks stormed and took Sidon, 
defeated the Egyptian armies twice, and captured large quantities 
of war materials. Shortly afterward Admiral Stopford with the- 
British fleet bombarded and reduced the fortress of St. Jean 
d’Acre, the strongest position on the eastern coast of the Medi¬ 
terranean. 00 

The news of these developments thoroughly disheartened the 
old Viceroy. He agreed to surrender the Turkish fleet which had 
been treacherously given up to him in July, 1839, and to with¬ 
draw his forces from all occupied territory upon being given Egypt 
in hereditary possession. When even this concession was with¬ 
held from him, he signified his willingness to surrender uncon¬ 
ditionally. The Great Powers, however, while unwilling to leave 
Mehemet Ali in possession of both routes to the East, were also 
unwilling to see him utterly divested of power. But even the 
entire relinquishment of his case into the hands of the Powers did 
not bring a speedy settlement. Once the danger of a serious war 
was definitely passed, agreement among the signatories of the re¬ 
cent supplementary pact of July 15, 1840, was difficult to arrive 
at. 81 The conclusion of the whole problem was complicated by the 
fact that no settlement could be considered final which lacked the 
adherence of France, and no means could be devised, in view of 
Palmerston’s uncompromising mood, of bringing France into the 
Concert on any basis which would be agreeable to all concerned. 
The “ road to India ” continued to be the stumbling block. Guizot 

80 Gooch, in The Camb. Hist. Journ., I, 170. 

81 Brit, and For. St. Paf., XXVIII, 3+2-347. 



284 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

proposed as a basis for a final settlement, the neutrality of both of 
the routes between the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean, by 
way of the Isthmus of Suez and Red Sea, and by way of Syria, 
Mesopotamia, and the Persian Gulf, as the Straits had been neu¬ 
tralized. These routes, he said, “ are a great interest to all of 
Europe.” Perhaps a better occasion to protect them might never 
present itself. 82 

None of the French suggestions was acceptable to the British 
Cabinet, however, and the firman issued by the Porte to Mehemet 
Ali on February 13, 1841, representing the substance of the wishes 
of the four cooperating Powers, did not receive the concurrence 
of France. This firman conferred Egypt upon Mehemet Ali in 
hereditary sovereignty, but on such a group of strict conditions, 
financial, military, and political, as practically to nullify the powers 
of the Pasha. Mehemet Ali protested loudly at such extensive 
restrictions, and this time his protests received a hearing in the 
councils of the great Powers. The British Cabinet had come to 
the view stated by Commodore Napier in February, 1841, that — 
“ next to Egypt being a colony of England, it is best that it should 
be an independent power, paying tribute to the Porte. Our com¬ 
merce to India will become very extensive 5 and the facility of 
traveling become easier every day.” 02 The firman was obviously 
unsatisfactory in a number of respects. One more chance, there¬ 
fore, presented itself of securing an arrangement to which the 
French Government could be a party. Such an arrangement was 
at length reached. Representations to the Porte that the terms 
of the firman of February 13 were too severe received the sanction 
of Louis Philippe’s Government, and on June 1, 1841, a new 
firman , divested of many of the objectionable features of the 
previous one, was issued to Mehemet Ali and accepted by him. 
The quarrel thus being largely patched up both in the Levant 
and among the western Powers, a final formal arrangement 
in the form of a Protocol was signed at London by representatives 
of the five Powers, and the Concert of Europe was thus re¬ 
established. 64 

The signing of this Convention was a matter of considerable 
importance for the time being in connection with the development 
of highways to the East. It left no possible rival or competitor in 

62 F. P. G, Guizot, Memoires four servir a Phistoire de mon temfs (8 vols., 
Paris, 1858-1867), VI, 74, quoted in Rodkey, of. cit, } p. 213 n. 

63 Napier, of. dt. y II, 179-180. 

64 Brit, and For. St. Faf XXIX, 703 fL$ Annual Register , 1842, p. 285. See 
Vicomte de Guichen, La Crise d’Orient de 1839 d 1841 et PEurofe (Paris, 1921)5 
Adolph Hasenclever, Die Orientalische Frage in den Jahren 1838—1841 . . . 
(Leipzig, 1914). 



GUARDIANSHIP OF THE ROUTES TO INDIA 285 

a position to interrupt the completion of British lines of com¬ 
munication which had been inaugurated formally just as the 
Eastern Question was approaching a crisis. Russia had with¬ 
drawn from the Straits. France was no longer dominant in Egypt 
and Syria. The will of Palmerston, prince of diplomats, had the 
force of law in both Constantinople and Alexandria. No longer 
were there obstacles to the formation of transportation companies 
operating in the seas bounding Egypt and establishing their own 
conveyances in Egypt. There being no longer any political ends 
to serve by a continuation of surveying enterprises in Mesopo¬ 
tamia, that route was largely neglected for the more practicable 
one already in general use. 

The Convention was also prophetic of the future. Already 
the safety of the routes leading through the Mediterranean and 
from the Mediterranean eastward entered into European diplo¬ 
macy as a major issue. Already Britain was willing to break a 
French alliance, to accept the hazard of a French war, and to as¬ 
sume the responsibility of police duty in the Levant to ensure free 
and constant access to India. She had at the same time sacrificed 
much to regain a position of leadership at Constantinople and had 
begun a policy of active intervention in the states flanking India 
in order to protect the approaches to India on the north and west. 
As communications improved, and industries, industrial popula¬ 
tions, and commerce grew, these same essential highways were 
destined to be the cause of later conflicts. In the course of these 
difficulties, the Crimean War was necessary to keep Russia from 
penetrating too far into Turkey and Persia toward the Mesopota¬ 
mian route and the northwest frontiers of India. A diplomatic 
duel with France over the building of the Suez Canal, in which 
Britain failed to prevent the success of a French Suez Canal Com¬ 
pany, provoked a new policy, one postponed as long as possible, 
that of direct instead of indirect control of the routes to the East 
by Great Britain. This policy was suggested by various prominent 
Englishmen at the time of the Syrian crisis. Napier stated the 
case succinctly in his War in Syria: 

. '. . Steam navigation having got to such perfection, 
Egypt has become almost necessary to England as the half¬ 
way house to India, and indeed ought to be an English colony. 
Now if we wished to weaken Mehemet Ali, with a view, in 
the event of the breakup of the Turkish Empire, which is not 
far distant, to have seized Egypt as our share of the spoil, 
we were perfectly right in our policy. . .“ 5 

65 Napier, op, ciL> II, 184. 



286 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

There is much reason to believe that Mehemet Ali was by no 
means so unkindly disposed toward Great Britain as was popularly 
supposed to be the case. 00 Although he irritated British suscepti¬ 
bilities by arrogant attacks on the Turks and by hampering the 
work of the Euphrates Expedition, he was ever willing to assist 
in developing a British highway through his own country of Egypt. 
Some responsible observers thought that in supporting the Turks 
and opposing the wishes of the Pasha, the British Government 
had “backed the wrong horse.” M. Victor Fontanier, French 
Vice-Consul and “ official observer ” of British moves in western 
Asia during these years, and who was anything but sympathetic 
with British interests, gave a very frank and illuminating view of 
Anglo-Egyptian relations in his Voyage dans l’I tide, written soon 
after the crisis of 1840. In commenting on British attitude, he 
said: 


It is difficult to understand . . . what great interest Eng¬ 
land had in obstructing the Pasha of Egypt in carrying his 
conquests as far as he pleased. She probably thought that 
the Pasha was hostile to her, and that she would become a tool 
of those [the French] who were supporting him. . . I 
believe in the good faith of the Pasha with the English. If 
it [an understanding] were advantageous to the former, it 
would give the latter an absolute control in the Red Sea and 
Persian Gulf. It was necessary to represent Mehemet Ali as 
a friend of the French, though he was little enough that. . . 
England would certainly have been more diplomatic if she 
had favored the Pasha rather than the contrary. 07 

A similar view was held by Commodore Sir Charles Napier, 
who had a large part in British operations in the Levant during 
the Syrian crisis. 

... It might, perhaps, [he said] have been politic to have 
confined Mehemet Ali to Egypt, so that in the event of his 
stopping the road to India by Suez, we might have the road 
of the Euphrates open, one remaining in the possession of the 
Ottoman Empire, and the other in that of the Pasha of 
Egypt. It is not, however, usual for a Government to quarrel 
with their own interests, and it is so decidedly to the advan¬ 
tage of the Pasha of Egypt to facilitate by every possible 
means, the passage across the Isthmus of Suez, that on the 

66 Fontanier, of. cit., II, I77i Quarterly Review, LXVII, 252-302. 

67 Fontanier, of. cit., I, 358. 



GUARDIANSHIP OF THE ROUTES TO INDIA 287 

whole I believe the soundest policy of Great Britain would 

have been to have supported Mehemet Ali. . . os 

There is little evidence to show that Palmerston himself had 
much conception of the part which the new route of communica¬ 
tions had already come to play in the affairs of England, for his 
attitude toward the wishes of Mehemet Ali could not have exerted 
a stronger influence on the Pasha to terminate all British inter¬ 
course through the countries under his control. Some of the de¬ 
partments of Government appreciated the need of keeping open 
the Red Sea line of communications, however, especially at a time 
when a British force was operating in Herat against the Persians, 
another was proceeding against the Afghans, while yet another 
war was looming up in China.' 1 " 

While Col. Patrick Campbell remained in Egypt as British 
Consul-General, the Pasha altogether disregarded his exterior 
political relations and maintained a steady interest in and approval 
of the steps being taken by British and Indian authorities for the 
improvement of the steam service in the seas adjacent and in proj¬ 
ects for facilitating the passage through Egypt. However, in 
September, 1839, Col. Campbell was removed from office because 
of his open friendship for the Viceroy, and Col. G. Lloyd Hodges, 
who was more sympathetic with the Turkish cause, was sent out 
to succeed him. Until this time, the Pasha apparently had felt 
confident that while Britain could not but take strong measures 
to prevent the dissolution of the Turkish Empire, his own re¬ 
peated assurances and the many concrete evidences he had given 
of friendship toward Great Britain and toward British enterprises 
would be in some measure reciprocated by the British Govern¬ 
ment. He was at all times careful, therefore, not to offend British 
subjects by word or deed, and he believed that his demands for 
territorial aggrandizement were such as could be approved in 
London without vitally compromising British policy with regard 
to Turkey. 

About the time of the arrival of Col. Hodges, Mehemet Ali 
began to experience his first doubts of the action which the British 
Government had in contemplation. Although he was well versed 
in the elements of British foreign policy, he was unable to under¬ 
stand Palmerston’s uncompromising and hostile attitude except as 

m Napier, of. tit., II, 278-279. See Fontanier, of. tit., II, 1775 William 
Cargill, Mehemet AH; Lord Palmerston; Russia and France (London, 184.0). 

m On the Chinese War, see Pari. Paf., 1843, No. 596, “Correspondence and 
Returns relative to the Supply of Troops, Vessels and Munitions of War, for 
Carrying on the Military Operations in China. 55 



288 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

a possible mask for some ulterior motive. . Early in 184.0 he gn\e 
voice to his fear that England was planning to seize and occupy 
Egypt in order “ to make of it a station on the road to India.” ,l> 
Contemporary articles in the English press pointing out the 
advantages which would accrue from the occupation of 1 pt 
may well have lent color to the Pasha’s fear. 

After the substance of the four-power pact of July 15, 1840, 
reached him, Mehemet Ali threatened to use the one ti ump cat d 
he possessed, the power of closing the Red Sea route,^ in order to 
bring pressure to bear on Great Britain. When the English mail 
of September, 1840, arrived at Alexandria, Col. Hodges consid¬ 
ered it best to secure from the Pasha an expression of his willing¬ 
ness to allow the packets to proceed as usual before they were 
landed. When he called on the Viceroy to request a safe conduct 
for the British and Indian mails, he was very coldly received and 
was told no assurances could be given him. Col. Hodges had pre¬ 
viously ascertained from the French Consul-General, however, 
that on board the steamer Oriental , which had just arrived at 
Alexandria, were some French mails addressed to the Pasha and 
some of the French officers in the Pasha’s service, and that the 
Pasha was aware of this. Hodges thereupon replied that he 
would give orders that the mails should not be landed. At this 
Mehemet Ali relented, and offered to let them pass in safety u for 
this time only.” 71 

On the same day, September 19, as Col. Hodges learned shortly 
afterward, Mehemet Ali had also been waited upon by Capt. 
Thomas Lyons, the agent in Egypt for the East India Company. 
In the discussion which followed bearing on various of the Com¬ 
pany’s interests during the unsettled times which had arrived, the 
Pasha gave assurance that “ not only should the mails pass in per¬ 
fect safety on the present occasion, but that they should continue 
to do so as long as he himself had authority in Egypt.” 72 It sub¬ 
sequently developed that at the very hour when Hodges called on 
the Pasha and was told that no guarantees could be given for the 
safety in transit of British mails, a mail from India, which had ar¬ 
rived a short time previously at Suez, had already nearly reached 
Alexandria under the safe conduct of the Viceroy. 73 

This incident, occurring at a moment when his feeling toward 
the British Government was very bitter, at the time when the news 
was coming in of the defeat of Egyptian armies and the bombard¬ 
ment of Beirut at the hands of the British, throws considerable 
light on both the character and the policies of Mehemet Ali. 

70 Quoted in Rodkey, of. cit., p. 149. 72 Ibid., pp. 251-252. 

71 Pari. Paf., 1841, No. [323.], Pt. II, 249. 73 Ibid., p. 252. 



GUARDIANSHIP OF THE ROUTES TO INDIA 289 

Realizing that he would gain nothing by interrupting the Indian 
route, he took care that his action in keeping the route open should 
not appear in the guise of a concession to the British official repre¬ 
sentative, but rather as an act of generosity to British merchant 
interests. 71 At the moment when the English fleet was bombard¬ 
ing Acre, the Pasha was holding conversations with representa¬ 
tives of a new British steam line, the Peninsular and Oriental 
Steam Navigation Company, and he is quoted by one of them as 
having said, in effect: 

I am not at war with the British nation, but only with Lord 
Palmerston, and therefore I shall give you every facility in 
passing your passengers and mails through Egypt; look to 
me as a friend, and when you go home, explain to your na¬ 
tion my sentiments. . . It is very bad policy on the part 
of your government to fight with me; this is your high road 
to India, and I shall always promote it. 75 

And at various times during the dark days of 1840 and 1841, 
when the Pasha appeared to have lost all in his gamble for power, 
he still found time to discuss with one of the founders of the 
Peninsular and Oriental Company the details of an arrangement 
whereby goods in small quantities might be shipped through 
Egypt.™ The Pasha readily cooperated with the new corpora¬ 
tion in offering security of transport, conveyances, and low tran¬ 
sit duties, which he himself determined without reference to his 
liege at Constantinople. 77 And all the while the navigation of the 
Nile was being improved, and projects even for a Suez Canal were 
being discussed. 78 

It is one of the most striking facts in the record of the Near 
Eastern crisis that at no time were communications sent by the 

M D. A. Cameron, Egypt in the Nineteenth Century (London, 1898), p. 216. 
See Pari. Pap., 1840, No. 277, p. 72. 

70 Statement of Mr. J. R. Engledue, a Superintendent of the Peninsular and 
Oriental Company, before a Select Parliamentary Committee in 1858. — Pari. Pap., 
1858, No. 382, pp. 175-176. 

7 " Arthur Anderson, Communications with India, China, etc., via Egypt (London, 
priv. pr., 1843), App., pp. 16-18; Asiatic Journal, XXXV, N.S., Pt. II, 283-284; 
ibid. , XXXVI, N.S., Pt. II, 323. 

77 Ibid., 398; Anderson, op. tit., App., pp. 32-38. Mehemet Ali chose entirely 
to ignore the Convention of August 16, 1838, relating to commerce and navigation 
between Great Britain and Turkey. — Hertslet’s Comtnercial Treaties, V, 506-535; 
Brit, and For. St. Pap., XXVI, 688-692. 

78 F.O. 97/411, Arthur Anderson to Lord Palmerston, 20 Feb., 1841; D. A. 
Cameron, op. tit., p. 236; Asiatic Journal, XXXV, N.S., Pt. II, 284. A notification 
published by the Viceroy 12 Oct., 1841, provided, however, that in future all 
vessels navigating the Nile and the new Mahmoudie Canal must be manned by 
Egyptians and sail under the Egyptian flag. See Brit, and For. St. Pap., XXIX, 1195. 



29 o BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

Egyptian route in the least delayed, or endangeted, although mes¬ 
sages sent by the route through Mesopotamia wci e tumpei cd \\ ith 
by the Arabs, in spite of English gunboats on the Euphrates. 75 ’ 
Indeed, the correspondence between England and India through 
Egypt in the five years from 1S35 to 1841 considerably more 
than doubled, the year 1840 showing a large increase over any 
previous year. 80 The years following also saw a great increase in 
the passenger traffic through Egypt, and a large percentage of 
overland travellers lingered in Egypt to view the curious streets 
of Cairo and to make tours up the Nile to the Pyramids and not 
infrequently to the decaying ruins of ancient Thebes. 

English appreciation for the Pasha’s, courtesy in maintaining 
the overland route during the whole period of the political crisis, 
while conspicuously absent from official correspondence, was never¬ 
theless shown by many private concerns after the affair had been 
settled. As one expression of the attitude held by the English 
mercantile interests, a committee was formed in London in 184a 
for striking a gold subscription medal to Mehemet All. This 
was — 

To hand down to posterity an honourable record of the 
conduct of the Pasha of Egypt during the late war, when, 
ports being blockaded, towns and villages laid waste, the 
subjects he governed destroyed by thousands, and his own po¬ 
litical and personal existence threatened, he nobly afforded 
protection to our numerous countrymen in Egypt, and to 
their property, and permitted them, as in peace, to traffic and 
travel, the overland route being kept open as usual. 81 

79 Asiatic Journal , XXXVI, N.S., Pt. II, 241 $ W. P, Andrew, Memoir on the 
Euphrates Valley Route to India (London, t H 5 7) 5 p. 41, 

80 Asiatic Journal , XXXV, N.S., Pt. II, 96. 

81 Ibid., XXXVIII, N.S., Pt. II, 4*6. It was said that "the* indefatigable Mr. 
Wag-horn J> was one of the honorary secretaries of the committee. 



CHAPTER XII 


BEGINNINGS OF THE SUEZ CANAL 

T HE Canal question, which became a prominent issue in 
European diplomacy toward the middle of the nine¬ 
teenth century, had a long and varied series of anteced- 
ents. 1 From the time of King Sesostris, eighteen centuries 
before the Christian era, projects were formed and sometimes exe¬ 
cuted for a connection by water between the Mediterranean and 
Red Seas. "I ime after time during the rise and fall of empires 
such waterways were allowed to pass into decay and ruin. 2 Yet 
even after centuries of neglect, the idea of a canal did not perish. 
It appealed particularly strongly to Napoleon Bonaparte because 
of the possibility of thus opening up a French channel to the East 
whereby the English might be circumvented and a French com¬ 
mercial empire developed. Hence, among the scientists carried 
to Egypt on his famous expedition of 1798 were several sur¬ 
veyors, who were presently engaged in running lines of levels 
between the Mediterranean and Red Seas as the basis for a more 
definite canal project. 3 

In the Napoleonic enterprise, however, there was one element 
of novelty. All of the ancient canal undertakings had been 
limited to effecting a communication between the Red Sea and 
the Nile and only indirectly with the Mediterranean. Those 
early canals, therefore, had been useful principally in developing 
the commerce and industries of Egypt itself. There are few 
evidences of a through traffic from East to West by way of these 
shallow waterways. With the limited geographical knowledge 
of ancient times the value of a more adequate waterway was not 

1 The Oriental Herald, V, 2—5 ; E. H. Warmington, The Commerce between the 
Roman Empire and India (Cambridge, Eng., 1928), p. 8, passim; W. G. Hamley, 
A New Sea and an Old Land, being Papers suggested by a visit to Egypt at the end 
of 1869 (London, 1871), pp. 1—25. 

2 Calcutta Review, XXIV, 323. An excellent survey of ancient canal works in 
Egypt is given in J. Charles-Roux, VIsthme et le Canal de Suez (2 vols., Paris, 
1901), I, Ch. 1. 

8 J. C. McCoan, Egypt as It Is (New York, 1877), p. 256. 

291 



a 9 2 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

apparent. 1 But as distant countries became increasingly aware of 
each other in late modern times, the utility of a direct water pas¬ 
sage from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea was obvious. Bona¬ 
parte, then, had in mind a canal which would accommodate the 
largest ocean vessels, and for that reason he broached the idea of 
a waterway, leading, not from the Nile, but directly across the 
Isthmus of Suez." 

The French survey of the Isthmus was poorly done. It began 
in January, x7'99, and was interrupted in February. It was re¬ 
sumed in September and completed in December of the same 
year. The staff of surveyors was several times changed, different 
kinds of instruments were employed on different portions, and 
the work was done hastily in long sections. No findings were 
verified by a second examination, due to lack of time and the 
vigorous hostility of the Arabs. As a very natural result, the 
findings were filled with errors. One of the conclusions reported 
by the Surveying Commission and accepted everywhere as gen¬ 
uine, was that the waters of the Red Sea were no less than thirty- 
two feet and six inches above those of the Mediterranean/' This 
assertion, which alone might have been suspected of error, ap¬ 
peared to be supported by old accounts, which showed that salt 
water was carried as much as twenty miles up an ancient Nile 
canal by the tides of the Red Sea. 7 

The importance of the French survey of the Isthmus of Suez 
to the cause of improved communication can hardly be overrated, 
although it resulted in nothing tangible at the time. The results 
of the survey, published in Napoleon’s monumental Drsrripthm 
d?£gypte } so impressed the contemporary world that no one ques¬ 
tioned the accuracy of the reports/ At various times after 1815 
suggestions were not lacking for a canal directly joining the 
Mediterranean and Red Seas, but most of these assumed the cor- 

* [David Urquhart], “Mr. Urquhart on the Suez Canal in a chapter 

distributed with the Diplomatic Review for 1876, p. 421. 

5 However, Napoleon’s engineers, following their survey, recommended deep¬ 
ening the channel of the Nile and the opening of a canal from the Nile to the Red 
Sea in the first instance. Cf. The Edinburgh Review, LX, 4^2. 

6 description (Ttgyfte * . . I, 57, 585 J. Charles-Roux, op. cit., x, 13H-1495 
Pari. Pap., 1834, No. 47 ^PP- 28, 29. The estimate of 32 feet and 6 inches difference 
in levels is based upon high tide at Suez and low tide at Tin eh cm the Mediter¬ 
ranean. See the Edinburgh Philosophical Journal for Oct., 18 2 <; $ Southern Ouar- 
terly Review , Jan., 1846, p. 69, (an article by M. Linant, one of the Pasha’s 
engineers), and the Report and Plan of the International Scientific Commission 
(London, 1857), PP- 13, 22-25. 

7 Charles-Roux, op. cit., 1, 149-152. 

8 One of the leading Nile-Red Sea projects was brought forward by the English 
engineer, R. H. Galloway, who was later made a Bey by Mehernef AIL In 182^ he 
proposed such a canal to the Pasha, found him favorably disposed toward the idea, 
and attempted to interest English investors in forming a canal company. Steam 



BEGINNINGS OF THE SUEZ CANAL 


293 


rectness of the report of the French engineers. 9 Definite plans 
had been made for cutting through the Isthmus of Panama, a 
vastly greater task than that of piercing the Isthmus of Suez, 
before the fallacy of the difference in levels of the Mediterranean 
and Red Seas had been fully exposed. 10 

Those projects which were brought forward after the Napo¬ 
leonic wars for a direct junction of the Mediterranean and Red 
Seas across the Isthmus of Suez were generally based on the idea 
that an isthmian tidewater canal would have a fairly strong cur¬ 
rent running through it, or that locks or “ sluices ” would be 
required. 11 Various plans for lock canals across the Isthmus were 
put forward about 1825, when recovery from the late series of 
wars and the salutary effects of the Industrial Revolution were 
bringing all kinds of speculative ventures into existence. Most 
of these were based on the idea of employing as far as possible 
the natural waterways already in existence on the Isthmus, the 
Bitter Lakes and Lake Menzaleh, and it was said that cc It may 
be safely stated . . . that there is not a spot in the world where 
a water communication of equal extent could be made with the 
same facility, and where human skill would produce so great a 
change with so small an effort.” 12 “ Were it found practicable 
to employ steam, it is probable that the voyage from England to 
Bombay, which at present occupies four, months, might be ac¬ 
complished by the canal in six weeks, the distance being about 
7200 miles.” 13 

When Capt. Chesney went to Egypt in 1830 to begin his work 
as a pathfinder, one of his instructions was, he says, “ to survey 
the Isthmus of Suez with a view to reporting on the practicability 
of carrying out the project of a great ship canal, the first modern 

navigation had not then made enough headway, however, to give weight to the 
enterprise. — Asiatic Journal XX, O.S., 364, 600. Estimates for building such a 
canal approximated £1,200,000. — Pari. Pap., 1834, No. 478, p. 33. 

9 See, for example, the article by Capt. J. B. Seeley, in the Asiatic Journal, XX, 
O.S., 538 if.j Ibid., XVIII, O.S., 330. Capt. Seeley’s project was primarily a com¬ 
mercial one for a canal joining the Red Sea with the Nile a across the Isthmus of 
Suez.” “ A Company established at Suez,” he said, u and possessing the Canal, would, 
in the course of a very few years, possess a prodigious trade and realize . . . im¬ 
mense profits. It would assist the mother country, the East India Company in their 
commercial operations, and open a vast field for speculation.” 

10 The Oriental Herald, V, 1, based on an account in the London Examiner of 
13 March, 182$. 

11 Mr. James Silk Buckingham, founder and editor of The Oriental Herald, 
supported the idea of an isthmian canal with locks, and thought that “ this great 
undertaking is . . . more worthy of general attention than most of those which 
at present agitate the public mind.” — Ibid., V, 9. 

12 Pari. Pap., 1834, No. 478, p. 29. 

13 Ibid., p. 34. 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


294 

suggestion of which had come from the savants of the French 
Republic.” 14 Chesney’s report that in his survey of the Isthmus 
he found no essential difference in the levels of the Mediter¬ 
ranean and Red Seas, although considered by the Select Parlia¬ 
mentary Committee of 1831, had little effect on canal projects. 15 
The findings of a single unskilled artillery officer could hardly 
prevail against those of a corps of reputable professional en¬ 
gineers, even of another nation. 

Meanwhile there was considerable correspondence between the 
Foreign Office and the India Board respecting the design, u or 
rather the wish,” of Mehemet Ali to cut a canal from Suez to 
Cairo. The India Board anticipated “ none but desirable conse¬ 
quences from the accomplishment of such a work,” and by r 834 
British officialdom was ready to give countenance to any such 
undertaking. Indeed, the forward state of the canal idea fended 
to neutralize enthusiasm for the projected expedition to the Eu¬ 
phrates River in the minds of many. But at this juncture the 
proposal of the Pasha to embark on a canal joining the Nile with 
the Red Sea was obscured by several new developments. To 
begin with, a French engineer in the service of Mehemet Ali, M. 
Linant de Bellefonds, usually known as Linant Bey, executed a 
series of surveys between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, 
and failed to discover the anticipated difference in levels. His 
reports to that effect introduced an element of doubt into the 
practicability of a Nile-Red Sea canal, and stimulated in the mind 
of Ferdinand de Lesseps, then French Consul in Egypt, the idea 
of a direct sea-level canal across the Isthmus. 17 In the second 
place, the proposal made by Galloway Bey that a railway be built 
from Cairo to Suez, because of the facts that this offered the 
same opportunities for collecting tolls and could be executed at a 
cost far below that of any canal, strongly appealed to the Pasha 
and also commended itself to British authorities. The English 
Consul at Cairo, Col. Campbell, wrote to Palmerston on January 
G I ^ 34 > that: u Measures have . . . been taken for the railroad 
from this to Suez, and as these operations will occupy the Pasha’s 
mind (which requires occupation), and that they will also require 
all the money he can dispose of, it is to be hoped that these plans 
will be a good guarantee for his future conduct.” lfi 

F. R* Chesney, Narrative of the Euphrates Expedition, p 2 

rt. i. D r ' *• c, ‘"” y • p - * S7! c - H - K " l ” e11 ' 

Aug" 8 ?g°33 iSa ° ffiCe ’ SUCZ ^ anal Papcrs ’ 97 / 411 , J. Neill to J. B. Macaulay, 9 

17 Cameron, Egypt, p. 236. 

18 O* 97 /Campbell to Palmerston, 1 Jan., 1834. 



BEGINNINGS OF THE SUEZ CANAL 295 

By the time the refusal of the British Government to guarantee 
to the Pasha a definite series of rates on mails and goods to be 
transported by the proposed railway and the death of the chief 
promoter, Galloway Bey, had brought about a suspension of 
preparations for the line, the political situation in the Levant had 
entered upon an acute phase and rapidly developed into a crisis. 
Nothing further was done with regard to either a canal or a 
railway until after the settlement of 1841. Thereafter projects 
for a canal were uppermost for a few years. The East India 
Company preferred a canal to a railway. 19 The newly-formed 
Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company also desired 
a canal, which would make possible the development of their 
comprehensive plan of steam communication with a much smaller 
steam equipment than would otherwise be required. In 1841, 
when the Managing Director of the Company, Arthur Anderson, 
was in Egypt making arrangements for the passage of mails, pas¬ 
sengers, and goods through the country in connection with the 
new line of steam vessels, he took occasion to study the question 
of a sea level canal between Suez and Pelusium. In a memoran¬ 
dum on the subj ect which he sent to Palmerston, he estimated the 
cost of such a canal as he proposed at £250,000, but thought it 
would be a profitable venture at ten times the amount, since “ the 
whole of our political and commercial intercourse with the vast 
territories of the east would of necessity fall into the Channel, 
and the distance between them and Great Britain for all purposes 
be reduced by many thousands of miles.” 20 He also thought 
such a canal would benefit all of Europe except, perhaps, Russia. 
He believed that the Pasha would give a concession for such a 
canal, but even if he refused, a right of way could doubtless be 
secured from the Sultan. The data on which his calculations were 
based he was obliged to keep secret for the time being, but he 
secured them from “ a man who has served as an engineer in 
Egypt for twenty years.” 21 

Anderson’s views on the practicability of a canal through the 
Isthmus of Suez, divested of their confidential element and pub¬ 
lished a little later in the form of a pamphlet, had considerable 
effect on public sentiment in England. 22 To the other objections 
to a canal joining the Nile and Red Sea was added after 1840 the 

19 Cameron, of. cit. } p. 236. 

20 F, O. 97/411, Arthur Anderson to Palmerston, 20 Feb., 1841. 

21 F. O. 97/411, Arthur Anderson to Palmerston, 20 Feb., and 18 March, 1841. 

22 Arthur Anderson, The Practicability and Utility of Opening a Communica¬ 
tion between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean by a Ship-Canal . . . (London, 
1843) $ Asiatic Journal , 3d Ser., II, 304, 305, “Review of Five Pamphlets for 
Different Plans of Improving: Eastern Communication .’ 5 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


29 6 

rapidly growing size of the steamship, which would scarcely be 
able to navigate any channel which could be constructed on the 
basis of the Nile waterway. Practically all of the plans brought 
forward after the close of the Syrian crisis therefore rested on the 
idea of a direct cut between the two seas. 23 

At the same time a distinct change occurred in British official 
attitude toward the whole canal idea. Information secretly trans¬ 
mitted by Anderson and others, casting grave doubts on the 
prevalent view that the Mediterranean and Red Seas differed 
some thirty-three feet in levels, made a large, sea-level canal 
appear perfectly feasible. 2 ' 1 Then it was that the British Foreign 
Office began to experience strong fears as to the political questions 
which might be induced by the construction of such a waterway, 
which would be to all intents and purposes a “ second Bosphorus.” 
Lord Palmerston was not long in arriving at the conclusion that, 
however great the commercial advantages, Great Britain might 
easily be placed in a very awkward position by such a waterway. 
All the objections and more which had been used to show the 
impracticability of giving any public guarantees to an Egyptian 
Railway would naturally apply to a Suez Canal. Such an attitude 
as this was only encouraged by the entire willingness of the 
French to sponsor the canal idea. A line of policy on a matter 
which held such vast potentialities, of constructive service on the 
one hand and political danger on the other, was very hard to 
determine. But the British Foreign Office could not see that 
between opposing the actual construction of a new strait severing 
Africa from Asia and embarking on another line of conduct which 
might necessitate the annexation of Egypt by force of arms, there 
was any middle ground. 25 

Although the breaking up of the Ottoman Empire was popu¬ 
larly believed to be at hand, it required more courage than the 
British Government possessed, in view of the unsettled state of 
European international relations, deliberately to adopt a policy 
which would inevitably create an Egyptian Question apart from 
the perennial Turkish Question. It appeared to the Cabinet and 
particularly to Lord Palmerston that the peace of Europe and the 
safety of the British people unquestionably lay in opposing a 


23 As late as 1842, however, k was stated that “ Mehemet AH intends to construct 
a canal between Fostat, Old Cairo, and Kolzim, near Suez, such as formerly existed 
under the occupation of the Arabs.” — Asiatic Journal , XXXIX, N.S., Pf.'ll, 242. 

Several unofficial surveys were made of the Isthmus of Suez in the fifteen 
years alter 1841, all of them indicating that there was little if any difference in the 
ievels of the Mediterranean and Red Seas. See London Times, 8 April, ,S«. 

«*4 /^r( r Londot S t8; 3 X; S T 4 K NiWiSMe Canal f ° r ACCeUraUl ^municathn 



BEGINNINGS OF THE SUEZ CANAL 


297 


project which could hardly fail to create new international issues 
of the greatest moment. It therefore became the self-imposed 
task of the British Government to make an isthmian canal appear 
the more impossible and impracticable as it became the more 
feasible from an engineering point of view. 20 

A railway was a different matter. An iron band from Cairo 
to Suez would not alter the geographical status of Egypt in the 
least, and hence would produce no international complications. 
Palmerston himself summed up the matter in a despatch to Sir 
Stratford Canning, British Ambassador at the Porte, on July 24, 
1851. Referring to French attempts to secure the approval of 
the Pasha of Egypt for an isthmian canal, he pointed out that 
one passage in the Firman of Investiture of February 13, 1841, 
required the Pasha of Egypt to secure the consent of the Sultan 
on all important matters pertaining to Egypt. 

That passage [he said] can only in reason be considered 
as applicable to matters which internally or externally would 
have an important bearing on the condition of Egypt as a 
part of the Turkish Empire, and can scarcely be construed as 
applying to so simple a domestic improvement as the con¬ 
struction of a Railway. A ship canal from the Mediter¬ 
ranean to the Red Sea, if such a work were practicable, would 
be a different thing: and it is needless to point out how such 
a work, changing as it would the relative position of some of 
the Maritime powers of Europe towards each other, would 
involve the possibility of political consequences of great im¬ 
port and might seriously affect the foreign relations of the 
Turkish Empire. 27 

The French, with the support of their Government, were 
anxious to proceed with a project disavowed by their English 
rivals. Thereupon, the fundamental importance to Great Britain 
of the Red Sea route to India and the East asserted itself. In 
order to prevent the route from falling wholly into the hands of 
rivals, the British Government was compelled to change its initial 
attitude of aloofness toward the canal scheme into one of definite 
opposition. As a counterpoise, the Egyptian Railway was ad¬ 
vocated. “ In the opinion of Her Majesty’s Government,” wrote 
Palmerston to Murray, British Consul-General in Egypt, in May, 

26 It appears probable that Palmerston was aware of the error in the calculations 
made by the French surveyors in 1799 and was convinced of the possibility and 
perhaps feasibility of a sea-level canal across the Isthmus of Suez years before the 
English public had access to information which might lead to the same conclusions. 

27 F. O. 78/411, Palmerston to Sir Stratford Canning, 24 July, 1851. 



298 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

1847, "the commercial advantages to be derived irom the canal, 
even supposing that it should be possible to make it, would be 
attained nearly as well and at a much less cost of time and money 
by a railway across the Desert from the Nile to the Red Sea.” ‘ s 
In this controversy, the other European Powers almost uniformly 
supported the project for a canal as opposed to a railway."'' The 
French thus had the advantage of considerable moral support, 
the friendship and confidence of the Pasha of Egypt, and, as time 
went on, a vast amount of corroborative data of all kinds on the 
feasibility of the ship canal. But the English were able long to 
withstand the weight of hostile influence because of naval su¬ 
premacy and the memory of naval actions of 1840,'"' and par¬ 
ticularly because of British influence at the Porte. 

By 1847 dm French canal proposition had reached a stage 
sufficiently advanced to warrant definite attention on the part of 
British authorities: 

It cannot be unknown to your Lordship (wrote Murray 
to Palmerston, May 3, 1847], that various projects for the 
junction of the Red Sea to the Mediterranean by means of a 
ship canal through the Isthmus of Suez have been from time 
to time discussed. . . Now however that a plan has been 
formed, purporting to be complete in all its details, and that 
it has been favourably received by the Egyptian Govern¬ 
ment, I think it my duty to give your Lordship such informa¬ 
tion as I can collect . . . inasmuch as the project, if it 
should prove feasible, would doubtless more materially 
affect the commercial and political interests of Great Britain 
in the East than any other change which scientific enterprise 
could effect in the physical structure of the earth. 

The plan under consideration ... has been proposed by 
M. Linant, a French officer, who has superintended the con¬ 
struction of all the canals, bridges, and aqueducts which the 
Pasha has made in Egypt, and who is certainly one of the 

28 F. O. Suez Canal Papers, 97/408, Palmerston to C. A. Murray, 27 May, 1847. 
20 F. 0 . 97/408, Murray to Palmerston, 4 Nov., 1846; Palmerston to Murray, 
27 March, 1847; On the Communications between Europe ami hulia through Egvft, 
PP- 3 — 7 > 44 ; Galloway, Observations on the Proposed Improvements in the Overland 
Route, pp. 4, 16. 

. !° “England is . . . the grand object of the Pasha’s fear and jealousy. Nor 

is his fear unfounded} the occupation of Aden, the War in Syria, and the hostile 
demonstration against Alexandria,^are not likely to be forgotten, while the constant 
solicitation of Englishmen to be invested with a monopoly of the transit to India 
tend to nourish jealousy.” — On the Communications between Europe and India 
through Egypt, p. 47. 



BEGINNINGS OF THE SUEZ CANAL 


299 

most practical and experienced engineers in His Highness’ 
service. . . In the present advanced state of science I dare 
not take it upon myself ... to assure any one of its im¬ 
practicability. 31 

This could hardly have been a surprise to Palmerston, who had 
already written, on February 8, in urging Murray to push the 
railway as much as possible: 

With regard ... to the Ship Canal . . . you should lose 
no opportunity of enforcing on the Pasha and his Ministers 
the costliness, if not the impracticability, of such a project; 
and you should point out that the persons who press upon the 
Pasha such a chimerical scheme, do so evidently for the pur¬ 
pose of diverting him from the Railway which would be per¬ 
fectly practicable and comparatively cheap. 32 

In reply to Murray’s representation of May 3, Palmerston 
pointed out the difficulty of being certain of the practicability of 
constructing the canal, or even the certainty of its utility. Mur¬ 
ray was instructed to “ remain entirely passive on the subject,” 
and to continue to advocate the railway as a matter of certain 
value, and he added that <c the reasons which would make Her 
Majesty’s Government prefer the railway would also render that 
channel of communication better for the interests of the Pasha.” 33 
Murray was not slow in taking his cue. In July he was able to 
report that “ We may safely number the Suez ship-canal among 
the most visionary projects of the day,” and that he thought 
Mehemet Ali would not go on with it. The railway was being 
urged as a “ practicable substitute.” 34 Henceforward British 
authorities both at home and in Egypt consistently displayed an 
attitude of complete skepticism and incredulity toward the canal 
scheme. 

Meanwhile the Egyptian Government, inspired by French 
counsels, determined to make an official examination of the levels 
of the Mediterranean and Red Seas. In 1845 M. Lenon, en¬ 
gineer to the Pasha, who had been in Egypt since the French 
survey of 1799, expressed his doubt of the correctness of the 
original calculations, and requested M. Talabot, a friend, to come 
out to Egypt and revive the project for establishing a water com- 

31 F, (X 97/408, C. A. Murray to Viscount Palmerston, 3 May, 1847. 

32 F, O. 97/411, Foreign Office to Mr. Murray, 8 Feb., 1847. Palmerston 
insisted all along that if the Canal were to be built, it must be with Egyptian money. 

33 F. O. 97/408, Palmerston to C. A. Murray, 27 May, 1847, 

3i Ibid Murray to Palmerston, 9 July, 1847. 



300 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

munication between the two seas. This led to the forming of a 
semi-official surveying commission by the Pasha, consisting of 
Taiabot, Robert Stephenson, representing England, and an 
Austrian engineer, Negrelli .'’ 5 These men, with their assistants, 
devoted considerable time in 1847 to investigating the possibilities 
of a ship canal. The Pasha facilitated these operations in every 
way possible, furnishing supplies and equipment, placing at the 
disposal of the engineers the wide knowledge and practical ex¬ 
perience of his own staff of engineers, including the able M. 
Linant, and bearing the expenses connected with the undertaking, 
a matter of some £4000. 

The findings of the group had considerable bearing on the 
future of the canal scheme. All members of the party agreed 
that there was no essential difference in the levels of the two seas 
except in the height and time of tides, but they differed widely in 
their opinions as to the practicability of a sea level canal. The 
Austrian engineers thought a canal quite possible, if not feasible, 
and believed that one of the greatest obstacles would be the con¬ 
struction of suitable termini and approaches at either end of the 
channel. 30 The French believed that a canal with locks admitting 
the largest vessels would function successfully. But Stephenson 
was convinced that any such canal was altogether out of the 
question. He stated subsequently that he had great faith in the 
idea of a sea-level canal as long as the thirty-odd feet of difference 
in level was believed to exist, for he considered a current of three 
or four miles per hour necessary to keep the channel clear. A 
long channel without any current flowing through it he believed 
to be useless j in effect he thought the canal would be, as was later 
said, a “ stinking ditch.” Moreover, he was convinced that any 
canal accommodating the largest vessels would be impracticable 
because of its enormous cost; and that since it could never be a 
profitable venture, he maintained it was useless to attempt it. ST 
Stephenson therefore recommended a railway as the only safe 
and profitable way of eliminating the unsatisfactory transit ar¬ 
rangements of the Transit Administration. Although these con¬ 
victions were doubtless inspired by his interest in the proposed 
Egyptian Railway, and were very likely influenced by the known 
sentiments of the British Foreign Office, they served as convenient 

89 Pari. Paf., 1851, No. 605, p. 223. Thomas Waghorn wrote Stephenson early 
in 1847, urging him to have nothing to do with the proposed survey, as it was but 
a wild scheme with which the plotting French had deluded the now partially ele¬ 
mented old Pasha. — F. O. 97/411, Waghorn to Stephenson, 13 March, 1847. 

36 F. 0. 97/408, C. A. Murray to Palmerston, 9 July, 1847, 

87 Pari. Paf., 1851, No. 605, p. 224. 



BEGINNINGS OF THE SUEZ CANAL 


301 

arguments for the opponents of the canal scheme long after they 
had been completely disproved. 38 

While the practicability of the canal and all of the accompany¬ 
ing issues were being busily discussed throughout western Europe, 
the old Viceroy of Egypt breathed his last. For months before 
his death on August 2, 1849, he had been unsound of mind, and 
the Government of Egypt had been carried on in his name by his 
son and heir apparent, Ibrahim Pasha, until his death in 1848, 
and thereafter by some of his ministers. Mehemet APs succes¬ 
sor was his nephew, Abbas Pasha, a stupid and pleasure-loving 
young man, but one who believed that his interests were bound up 
with those of the English. During the six years of his rule, 
therefore, little was heard of the canal. The Pasha*s French ad¬ 
visers were all replaced with Englishmen, and as the English 
Consul-General had the entire confidence of the young potentate, 
only English schemes were put on foot in Egypt. 

As a result of this diplomatic revolution, the French, who had 
lately been abetting the Viceroy of Egypt against his suzerain, 
the Sultan, now betook themselves to Constantinople, where they 
speedily insinuated themselves into Turkish councils and plotted 
to overthrow Abbas, and with him English hegemony. 30 The 
Porte was not averse from the idea of ousting the family of the 
hated Mehemet Ali, and willingly listened to plans for dethron¬ 
ing Abbas. The latter was in a precarious position at best, for 
while British authorities rejoiced at the discomfiture of the French, 
whom Mehemet Ali was always suspected of favoring, they 
would take no steps which might involve the slightest obligation 
with regard to Egypt. The most which could be expected from 
the British Government was a friendly attitude, and this, at any 
rate, was given. 

The temporary disappearance of French influence in Egypt 
made possible the revival of the pet project of the English, the 
railway, which was desired by Government and commercial in¬ 
terests alike. From the time of his accession, the advantages of 
this enterprise had been pointed out to Abbas, who found the idea 
attractive. In October, 1850, he had an opportunity to begin 
definite arrangements for a railway at a time when Robert 
Stephenson, who had already discussed the canal question with 

3H Diplomatic Review (1S53), p. 421, the opinion of David Urquhart5 Bar- 
thelmy St. Hilaire, New Facts ami Figures relative to the Isthmus of Suez Canal, 
edited by M. Ferdinand de Lessefs (London, 1856), p. 33. See Stephenson’s statement 
in The Engineer for 15 Feb., 1856. 

m [Anonymous], The Present Crisis in Egypt in Relation to Our Overland 
Communication with India, No. 1 (London, 1851), p, 15. 



302 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

him, was in Egypt. The Pasha remarked that he pi oposed to 
build the road in two sections, to avoid unduly wounding. 1 iench 
susceptibilities, the first from Alexandria to .Cairo, and afterward 
another from Cairo to Suez. He himself was to ad\ ance the 
money and furnish the labor for the construction, lea\ ing only 
engineering supplies and railway equipment to be acquit ed else¬ 
where. 40 Stephenson approved these plans and returned to Eng¬ 
land. Early in 1851 the Pasha requested him to act as chief 
engineer for the railway, and in July an agreement was concluded 
for the enterprise. Stephenson was to complete the railway 
within two years, and receive for his services the tidy sum of 
£55 ,ooo. 41 

Work on the railway proceeded steadily in spite of hreach at¬ 
tempts to bring it to a halt by invoking the aid of the Porte. 

A" corps of English surveyors laid out the first section of the line 
before the end of 1851, and Egyptian fellahs, were_set at work 
preparing the embankments for the rails. 4 "’ The line was not 
completed as quickly as had been planned, but progress on it was 
so satisfactory that before the end of the year 1853 the section 
from Alexandria to the Nile was opened, and from that time for¬ 
ward the Mahmoudie Canal, the opening of which had been 
attended with such desirable consequences, gradually fell into 
disuse. 44 A part of the line was double tracked at the outset; all 
of it was within a few years. 

The first section of the railway which had been so long ad¬ 
vocated was completed none too soon. 45 Hardly had communica¬ 
tion thus been established between Alexandria and Cairo when 
Abbas’ short reign ingloriously ended. He was succeeded by 
Said Pasha, whose first care was to welcome back to Egypt the 
French who had been ousted by his predecessor. Again English 
counsels were unsought, and English interests were protected only 
because of the deference and silent tribute paid to sea power and 

40 Park Pap., 1851, No, 605, pp. 223, 224, Examination of Robert Stephenson 
by the Select Committee of the House of Commons. 

41 London Times, 30 July, 1851. 

42 F. O. 78/411, Palmerston to Sir Stratford Canning:, 24 July, 18515 Anon., 
The Present Crisis in Egypt ... p. 235 Anon., The Egyptian Railway; or, The 
Interest of England in Egypt (London, 1852), pp, 3, 4. 

43 Because of his power of using forced labor, the Pasha expected to construct 
the line between Alexandria and Cairo, some 140 miles, at a cost of less than £do00 
per mile. Very little grading- was required in this section. Actually the cost, in¬ 
cluding the first rolling stock, was about £11,000 per mile. The railway was to 
cross the Nile near Cairo by using the enormous irrigation barrage just completed 
by French Engineers. Pari. Pap., 1851, No. 605, p. 225; London Times, 4 Dec., 
1851. 

44 London Times, 8 April, 1853. 

45 The line between Cairo and Suez was not completed until 1858. 



BEGINNINGS OF THE SUEZ CANAL 


303 

to the recovery of British prestige at Constantinople. For with 
the opening of the Crimean War the Porte was compelled to rely 
very largely on British strength. 

With the accession of Sai’d Pasha, a definite French project for 
the construction of a canal across the Isthmus of Suez brought its 
author, Ferdinand de Lesseps, into prominence. De Lesseps was 
well fitted to be the founder of such an enterprise. His father 
had been the French Political Agent in Egypt during the rise of 
Napoleon Bonaparte, and had materially assisted in the rise to 
power of Mehemet Ali. In this way Matthew de Lesseps was 
largely instrumental in establishing the tradition of French sym¬ 
pathy and friendship for Egypt which his son so ably capitalized 
later. Young Ferdinand de Lesseps spent his early youth in 
company with the members of Mehemet Ali’s household, includ¬ 
ing Said, who succeeded to the viceroyalty in 18 54.*° 

De Lesseps was serving as Sieve or “ understudy ” in the 
French Consulate at Cairo when the first steps were taken toward 
opening the overland route. There he watched with great inter¬ 
est the early efforts of Chesney and, a bit later, Waghorn. 47 
Although his early adult life was spent in France and in Algeria, 
De Lesseps did not cease to ponder upon the mighty advantages 
which would accrue from an open, fully-navigable channel be¬ 
tween the Mediterranean and Red Seas. He was restrained from 
taking any active steps, however, by the realization that nothing 
of importance could be accomplished during the lifetime of Me¬ 
hemet Ali.‘ s Immediately upon the news of his death, De Les¬ 
seps determined to put his plans on foot. In a letter, dated Paris, 
July 8, 1852, to his boyhood friend S. W. Ruyssenaers, then 
Dutch Consul-General in Egypt, he outlined his scheme in fairly 
tangible form for the first time, but added, “ I confess that my 
scheme is still a mere dream and I do not shut my eyes to the fact 
that so long as I alone believe it to be possible, it is virtually im¬ 
possible.” Ruyssenaers replied that it would be untimely to 
push the proposition at the moment, and De Lesseps sadly retired 
to his estate in Algeria. 

He was still in retirement when the announcement of the 

40 Ferdinand de Lesseps, The Suez CanaL Letters and Documents Descriptive 
of Its Rise and Progress in 1854-1856 (Trans., London, 1876), p. 65. 

47 McCoan, of. cit . 3 pp. 257-2595 De Lesseps, The Suez Canal ... p. 26$ 
Fitzgerald, The Great Canal at Suez, I, passim; London Times 3 8 April, 1853. 

48 Mehemet Ali had opposed the idea of an isthmian canal because he believed 
it would have the effect of separating Egypt from Syria and Arabia, which he con¬ 
sidered as rightfully belonging to the Egyptian Pashalik. 

49 De Lesseps, op. ck . 3 p. 25 J. Charles-Roux, op. cit . 3 I, 244-246. 



3 04 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

death of Abbas and the accession of Said reached him. His first 
act was to write to the new Viceroy to renew histoid ftienciship 
and to assure him of a congratulatory visit. “ Not a word was 
said about the Suez Canal, a subject I shall not broach until 1 am 
quite sure of my ground, 55 he wrote his mother-in-law. 1 lung¬ 
ing out to Egypt, De Lesseps was soon installed in a mansion as a 
personal and honored friend of the new ruler, whose e\ ei y deed 
he was careful to applaud. £C I must act with the greatei pi u- 
dence, 55 he wrote, “ that Ruyssenaers remembers having heard 
Said Pasha remark, before his accession to power, that if ever he 
became the Viceroy of Egypt he should follow the example of 
his father, Mehemet Ali, who had declined to have anything to 
do with cutting a canal across the Isthmus of Suez because of the 
difficulties it might lead to with England.” 61 But by a remark¬ 
able exercise of tact and patience, De Lesseps was able to translate 
his social position into a business proposition without in the least 
exciting the Viceroy’s suspicion or his apprehension. The great 
plan was first presented on November 15, 1854. De Lesseps 5 
confidence in the scheme and his enthusiasm were infectious. “ 1 
am convinced; 55 exclaimed Said, “ I accept your plan... . Con¬ 
sider the matter settled. You may rely upon me.” 02 Following 
this favorable reception of the proposal, De Lesseps presented the 
Viceroy with an “ impromptu 55 minute, containing a plan which 
had been drawn up and waiting for two years. On November 
24 a preliminary draft of a concession to be issued by the Viceroy 
with the consent of his suzerain was prepared and approved, and 
the great project began to emerge from the realm of pure 
speculation. 83 

The plan in brief, as embodied in the Viceroy’s Concession, 
provided.for a company to be organized under the auspices of the 
rtemd/Jtnown as the Compagnie Unherselle du Canal Mari- 
iMkeids Spmp The directors of the Company were to be chosen 
i^tit^lSficefoyifi^rom among those most interested in the enter¬ 
prise?,” and theicbheession was to endure for 99 years. The canal 
{works were to her.executed at the cost of the Company, but all 
fortifications were to be installed by the Viceroy. The Egyptian 

50 De Lesseps, of. cit., p. 7. The letters inserted in this English version by their 
author were undoubtedly edited rather carefully in order to give the book cohesion 
and consistency. 

51 Ibid., p. 7. 

52 Ibid., p. 13. Said gave his approval, however, only on condition that there 
should be no opposition on the part of the Great Powers. — F. O. 78/1156, F. W. A. 
Bruce to the Earl of Clarendon, 3 Dec., 1854. 

53 De Lesseps, of. cit p. 26. The text of the minute is given in J. Charles-Roux, 
of. cit., I, 437—441. 



BEGINNINGS OF THE SUEZ CAN Mg 3°5 

Government was to receive 15% of the net profits <M%he Com¬ 
pany, 75 % of the profits were to be paid to the sharehoilofega^ra/ 
an additional 10% was reserved for the “ founders.” There ms 
to be no discrimination among nations in tariff rates. The route 
of the canal was not specified, but the concession was purposely 
made inclusive, so that even the Nile might be used if considered 
advisable. 01 

Shortly after the completion of the agreement, De Lesseps 
went, at the Pasha’s request, to explain the arrangement to 
Frederick W. A. Bruce, who had succeeded C. A. Murray as 
British Consul-General. The Canal Company was presented, 
not as a French but as a strictly international enterprise having 
its origin in Egypt. The plan appeared to be largely free from 
those features which had made earlier French proposals anathema 
to the British Government. An international undertaking, in 
which France should participate no more than Great Britain or 
Austria, at first Bruce believed, or feigned to believe, to be an 
acceptable proposition. He replied, according to De Lesseps, that 
if free capital were involved in such a commercial enterprise, he 
could anticipate no opposition from England. 55 But he also 
pointed out that, as he had no instructions on the subject, his 
opinion carried no significance. 

In reporting this conference and subsequent information to 
the Home Government, Bruce said that he had urged Sa'id not to 
invest in or guarantee the canal in any way as it was much too 
large a matter for Egyptian resources. Instead of this, he again 
urged the completion of a railway line to Suez, “ the money for 
which would have been found by the contractors of the line now 
nearly finished.” 0# But regarding De Lesseps’ scheme he con¬ 
tinued, “ I have reason to believe that this scheme has been 
brought forward by Mr. Lesseps without any communication with 
the French Government.” He believed that such a direct canal 
as that proposed would “ give Egypt the go-bye,” and that it 
would have a constant tendency to escape from the jurisdiction of 
the Egyptian Government, and would in no way enrich the 
country except as it might create a demand for supplies. The 
railway, on the other hand, would follow the Nile and bring 
the route of trade through Egypt. 

u P. 0 ., Suez Canal Papers, 78/1156, Traduction of Concession from Said 
Pasha to Ferdinand de Lesseps. Transmitted to F. W. A. Bruce, Nov., 1854. The 
complete text of the Concession or firman in 12 Articles, is dated 30 Nov,, 1854.— 
F. O. 78/1156, Enclosure, Lord Cowley to the Foreign Office, 18 June, 18553 
Charles-Roux, of. cit. 3 I, 422-424. 

55 De Lesseps, of. cit. 9 p. 27. 

56 F. O. 78/1156, Bruce to Clarendon, 3 Dec., 1854. 


¥ td\ " 



3 o6 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

It is a question well worth the attention and serious con¬ 
sideration of the Turkish Government [he said], and of 
those interested in maintaining the link between the East and 
the West in the hands of a neutral and unaggressive Power, 
how far these objects are compatible with the existence of a 
Powerful Company disposing the money and patronage 
which such an enterprise would place at their disposal.'" 

That Bruce did not believe such an enterprise could be divorced 
from political considerations was also made clear. He believed 
that even if the French Government furnished no funds, it would 
probably back the canal in some way. 

It is clear that before £8,000,000could be found, the 
neutrality of the Passage must be guaranteed by some ar¬ 
rangement in the nature of a Treaty by the Great 
Powers . . . and in the course of the discussion many ques¬ 
tions will arise with reference to the facility to be afforded 
by it for the Passage of Troops and Military Stores. It is 
not to be forgotten, moreover, that the first effect of it would 
be to open a direct Trade from Europe with the Red Sea, 
which would lead to the formation of Establishments on 
different points along its coast, and which in the present state 
of anarchy ... of those countries, would in all probability 
lead to collision with the natives, and become the pretext for 
the employment of forcible measures and the formation of 
permanent settlements. 50 

If the project had been launched without the knowledge of 
Napoleon III, he was not long in expressing a peculiar interest 
in it.® 0 On December 22, the Viceroy of Egypt was invested with 
the insignia of the Legion of Honor by the French Consul- 
General, M. Sabatier, on behalf of the French Emperor. In 
making the presentation, M. Sabatier said, in part: 

In conferring on your Highness this great distinction . . . 
Napoleon III . . . is . . . anxious to express his deep in¬ 
terest in Egypt itself, and in the glorious but arduous work 
of reorganization and reform bequeathed to your Highness 

57 F. O. 78/1156, Bruce, 3 Dec., 1854. 

m This was Stephenson’s estimate of the cost of the waterway. 

F. O. 78/1156, Bruce to Clarendon, 3 Dec., 1854. Bruce rather thought that 
the canal project would further the cause of the railway, however. 

60 Lord^ Cowley, British Ambassador to France, wrote to the Foreign Office 
about this time that the French Government officially denied having anything to do 
wi.th the canal project. 



BEGINNINGS OF THE SUEZ CANAL 


307 


by your father of illustrious memory. Your Highness is 
aware that in carrying out this work the encouragement and, 
if need be, the support of the Emperor will never fail 
you. . .” 01 

This alone would have sufficed to make the opponents of the 
Suez scheme wary. But already, on December 4, the Pasha had 
written to the Sultan asking his approval on both the canal and 
the railway from Cairo to Suez, intending to use the one as a 
counterpoise to the other. “ I have been told that the question 
belonged to Paris and London,” wrote De Lesseps; “ I think it 
ought not to leave Egypt until further orders.” “ a But the ques¬ 
tion refused to stay in Egypt. The Pasha of Egypt was, after all, 
the vassal of the Sultan, and that fact alone inevitably would have 
led to the reviewing by the representatives of the Great Powers 
of any proposed measure which might affect the status of the 
Ottoman Empire, concerning which two great nations were then 
contending with a third. Thus, into the maelstrom of political 
intrigue already produced by the problems which war had been 
invoked to settle, problems for the most part relating to the 
protection of India, was interjected a related issue which could 
not fail of breeding difficulties between the Powers allied against 
Russia. 

The British Government, in opposing the canal scheme, chose 
to defend its position at Constantinople. In this way official 
statements which might give umbrage to France could be avoided, 
the Turkish Government could be made to take the blame for the 
refusal to issue a firman authorizing a canal, and there also the 
situation would rest in the hands of a diplomat who would be 
fully capable of managing the situation. This last consideration 
was not one of the least. In Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, Great 
Britain possessed an Ambassador of no uncertain type. Being 
vigorous and aggressive and well acquainted with the devious 
paths of Turkish diplomacy, he was so feared by the ministers 
surrounding the Sultan, both because of his domineering per¬ 
sonality and his unhesitating willingness to invoke the vast powers 
of the government he represented, that his colleagues frequently 
spoke of him as “ Sultan Stratford.” 03 He was, moreover, a 
most narrow-minded imperialist, whose hatred of Russia because 
of her real and supposed advances in the direction of India had 
largely been responsible for the opening of the Crimean War, 
and whose suspicion of French motives in connection with the 

61 Be Lesseps, op. eh., p. 45* 62 Ibid., p, 71. 63 Ibid., p. So. 



308 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

Suez Canal scheme took no note of the need for French coopera¬ 
tion in prosecuting the badly-managed Crimean campaign. Few 
suggestions from London were needed, therefore, to raise up at 
the Porte an insuperable obstacle to the further progress of the 
canal idea so long as the Turkish Government remained in awe of 
the imperious and temperamental British Ambassador. 

One of the first definite indications of the position adopted by 
the British representative at the Porte was contained in a con¬ 
fidential despatch from the Grand Vizier, Reschid Pasha, to the 
Viceroy of Egypt in February, 1855. At the behest of the Eng¬ 
lish Ambassador, Reschid dutifully pointed out the obvious ad¬ 
vantages which a railroad would confer on Egypt and suggested 
that as a railroad would be much less expensive than a canal, and 
since two such enterprises would be inadvisable, the canal should 
be abandoned. 64 Almost at the same moment De Lesseps arrived 
at Constantinople in the capacity of a plenipotentiary from the 
Viceroy of Egypt to secure the consent of the Porte for the canal. 
He found the Grand Vizier apparently quite favorable to his 
project, 65 although the fear of the British Ambassador was so 
great among the members of the Turkish Council that De Lesseps 
was refused recognition in any official capacity. 6 " The French 
charge d'affaires at Constantinople, M. Benedetti, supported De 
Lesseps in his efforts as much as possible, but even he had received 
from his Government “ a hint not to put himself too forward in 
the matter.” 67 De Lesseps, therefore, found himself reduced to 
the necessity of using such personal influence as he had, supported 
officially only by the representative of the Austrian Government. 68 

During the next few weeks De Lesseps labored hard to convert 
the Turkish Government to the canal undertaking, emphasizing 
the international character of the enterprise, its approval by 
France and Austria, and the anxiety of Sai'd Pasha that it be rec¬ 
ognized as his project. So sincere and untiring were his efforts 
that Lord Stratford reported to his Government on February 22, 
that the Turkish Council, including Reschid Pasha, were very 
much inclined to grant the request of the Pasha of Egypt, not 
that they believed in the canal itself, but because they disliked to 
give umbrage to the Viceroy and the French Government." A 


64 F. O. 78/1156, Reschid Pasha to the Viceroy of Egypt, ti Feb., i8ec ; Foreign 
Office to Stratford de Redcliffe, 27 Feb., 1855. 

65 De Lesseps quotes Reschid Pasha as saying that he would like to be rid of 
Lord Stratford’s influence.— The Suez Canal , pp. So, 97. 

66 F. O. 78/1156, Stratford de Redcliffe to Lord Clarendon, 12 Feb*, 1855. 

67 De Lesseps, The Suez Canal 3 p. 81. 

68 Ibid., pp. 81, 82. 

69 F. O. 78/1156, Redcliffe to Clarendon, 22 Feb., 1856. 



BEGINNINGS OF THE SUEZ CANAL 309 

few days later Lord Stratford reported again that even if he 
should succeed in postponing the action of the Turkish Council, 
he believed the desired firman would be issued before long unless 
he (the Ambassador) could object to it on official grounds. 
Meanwhile, in order to relieve the pressure concentrating upon 
him, he prepared a memorandum for the Foreign Office, which 
was communicated orally to the Grand Vizier, stating — 

It is quite clear that this scheme is founded on ulterior 
intentions hostile to British views and interests — and the 
[overt] . . . object no doubt is, to lay a foundation for a 
future severance of Egypt from Turkey and for placing it 
under French protection. A deep and wide canal interposed 
between Syria and Egypt, studded with fortifications, would 
be a military defensive line which, with the Desert in front of 
it, would render the march for a Turkish army very difficult; 
and if land is to be conceded to the French company, a 
French colony or French territory would be interposed be¬ 
tween Turkey and Egypt, and any attempt of Turkish troops 
to cross that line would be held to be an invasion of France. 

From the moment this enterprise was completed, Egypt 
would be virtually cut off from Turkey and would be placed 
under the protection of France. 

It seems to me that these considerations might be frankly 
. . . explained to the French Government and they might 
be asked whether they think it worth while to endanger the 
alliance by pressing forward this scheme. 70 

With these and other similar vigorous representations, which 
had the smell, if not the color, of official statements, De Lesseps 
was foiled in his hope of securing immediate action. Vainly he 
stated that he had no objection to the Suez Railway, and that 
since this would be constructed by Egyptian capital while the canal 
would be an international undertaking, the two enterprises need 
not conflict in the least. Likewise in vain did he memorialise the 
Grand Vizier, the Turkish Council, and even Lord Stratford de 
Redcliffe himself. 71 The Turkish Ministers replied that in the 

70 lbid,> Memorandum of Stratford de Redcliffe, given to Mr. Chabert, and 
communicated orally to Reschid Pasha, [Enclosure with No. 148, 27 Feb., 1855]. 
Several of these arguments had already been suggested by the Consul-General in 
Egypt, Mr. F. W. A. Bruce. See F. O. 78/1156, Bruce to Clarendon, 20 Feb., 1855. 

71 De Lesseps, The Suez Canal) pp. 86—87, 95—96 j Inquiry into the Of inions of 
the Commercial Classes of Great Britain on the Suez Ship Canal (London, 1857), 
pp, 129-132, 4< Letter from De Lesseps to Stratford de Redcliffe, Pera, 28 Feb., 
1855,” Lord Stratford appears to have completely ignored this letter, which 
reviewed the “whole case for the canal from a political point of view. 



3 ro BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

absence of details of the canal plan furnished by the Viceroy him¬ 
self they were unable to take any official action on the matter, and 
they procrastinated further without committing- themselves by 
appointing a commission to investigate the canal scheme. . b i- 
nally, early in March, when it had become altogether obvious 
that the Porte dared not risk offending the British Government 
at such a critical moment by approving the canal project, De 
Lesseps took his departure for Egypt, angry and discouraged, but 
not beaten. 78 He had received intimations that the desired permit 
would not be long in forthcoming. 

With all of his powers, Lord Stratford was in an uncomfortable 
position. Reschid Pasha very probably disliked as weH^as feared 
him, and he was none too securely seated in office. I he whole 
Turkish Council were growing restive under the taunts showered 
upon them by the diplomats of other nations because of their 
subservience to the whims of the English “ Sultan,” who had no 
official instructions to cite for his continued opposition to De 
Lesseps and the canal. 74 But the anxiety of the Turkish ministers 
proceeded from another source, as well. Intimations came now 
and then of the desire of the Viceroy of Egypt to become inde¬ 
pendent and of the wish of the French Government to encourage 
such sentiments. 70 It was also suggested that the Pasha might 
authorize the construction of the canal on his own authority, basing 
his action on arguments advanced by British agents in 1851, when 
French opposition at Constantinople temporarily held up the con¬ 
sent of the Porte for the construction of the first section of the 
Egyptian Railway. It had been pointed out to the Viceroy at that 
time that the railway might well be considered a purely domestic 
matter, not requiring the approval of the Porte. 711 

Lord Stratford grew fearful of his ability to carry on the tem¬ 
porising policy of the Porte much longer. Sincere in his belief, 
no doubt, that the canal project ranked with Russian conquests in 
Transcaucasia in its threat to British interests in the East, he 
begged with such grace as he could muster for permission to 
proclaim officially the sentiments of his Government. t£ It is only 
by an open official interference that I could hope to succeed in 
obtaining an indefinite postponement of the plan,” he wrote on 
March 21. 77 Faced thus with the direct issue, the Foreign Office 

72 F. O. 78/1156, Redcliffe to Clarendon, t March, 1855 (Confidential). 

” Ibid., No. 155, (Confidential); Redcliffe to F. W. A. Bruce, 26 March, 1855 
(private) ; De Lesseps, The Suez Canal, p. 98. 

74 F. O. 78/1156, Governor-General of Egypt to Kiamil Pasha, 31 March, 
1855. [Enel, in No. 280, 12 April.] 

75 Ibid., F. W. A. Bruce to Lord Clarendon, 18 Feb., 1855. 

76 De Lesseps, The Suez Canal, pp. 81—82. 

77 F. O. 78/1156, Redcliffe to the Foreign Office, 21 March, 1855. 



BEGINNINGS OF THE SUEZ CANAL 


3ii 

tried another expedient. In response to Lord Stratford’s memo¬ 
randum and request for advice of February 2,6, he had been in¬ 
formed in a despatch dated March 9 that it was “ the opinion of 
Her Majesty’s Government that it would not be expedient to 
make any official protest against this scheme.” 78 But a little later 
Lord Clarendon, in approving his machinations to prevent the 
success of De Lesseps’ mission to Constantinople, added: 

Her Majesty’s Government consider that this canal would 
be useless even if it were possible to execute it, and the con¬ 
cession demanded by M. Lesseps is highly objectionable for 
political reasons: and they recommend the Porte not to grant 
it on the ground that this is not a moment for bringing so 
large a project into the money market. 70 

Selections from this and other despatches in the same vein, 
“ read confidentially ” to Reschid Pasha, were about to cause a 
shelving of the canal question, when it was unexpectedly re¬ 
opened. The French Government, repenting of its early mod¬ 
eration, suddenly came forward in active support of the enterprise. 
On May ai, the French charge d’affaires at Constantinople 
formally demanded the sanction of the Suez concession on the 
ground that the Viceroy of Egypt had at last supplied all neces¬ 
sary details and the British Government had withdrawn its ob¬ 
jections. 80 This was vigorously denied, both by Redcliffe at the 
moment and officially by the Foreign Office a short time later. 81 
But the incident at least had the effect of clearing the air and 
bringing out openly the views of the British and French Govern¬ 
ments concerning it. 

On June 4, Lord Cowley, British Ambassador at Paris, protested 
to the French Government against Benedetti’s recent action in 
support of the canal at Constantinople. Benedetti’s statements 
were immediately disavowed by Count Walewski, the French 
Foreign Minister, but the whole question of the canal came up 
for discussion. Walewski suggested that both Britain and France 
instruct their representatives at Constantinople to interfere no 
further in the matter, but to leave it for the decision of the Sultan 
and the Viceroy of Egypt. To this Cowley replied — 

That his suggestion did not apply equally to both govern¬ 
ments. I must maintain, I said, that in respect to the means 

78 Ibid., Foreign Office to Redcliffe, 9 March, 1855. 

70 Ibid., Clarendon to Redcliffe, 29 March, 1855 (Confidential). 

80 Ibid., Redcliffe to Clarendon, 21 May, 1855 (Confidential) 5 Charles-Roux, 
of. cit., I, 261. 

81 F. O, 78/1156, Foreign Office to Redcliffe, 21 May and 6 June, 1855. 



3 I2 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

of transit through Egypt, Her ^Majesty’s Government was 
much more concerned in the final solution . . . than the 
French Government, and, as he must know, that Her Maj¬ 
esty’s Government had no object in view with reference to 
Egypt but the rapid transmission of their correspondence to 
India. 82 

Count Walewski insisted, however, that this suggestion be made 
to the British Foreign Office. Cowley duly transmitted the pro¬ 
posal, with his own comment that “ unfortunately experience 
proves, even if your Lordship were inclined to accept this pro¬ 
posal, that no orders from the government at home will prevent 
French agents acting secretly, when they think that any advantage 
can be obtained over British interests.” w 

The British Government demurred at giving a pledge to re¬ 
main neutral on the canal question. In reply to the proposal of 
Count Walewski, Lord Clarendon took occasion to sum up the 
whole of British objections to the canal, which made a passive 
attitude on the part of the British Government very unlikely. 

The objections of Her Majesty’s Government to this 
scheme of a canal are threefold: 

First — They know, whatever may be said by speculators 
to the contrary, that it is physically impossible, except at a 
cost which must put out of all question its being profitable 
as a commercial speculation, and which must therefore prove, 
that if undertaken, it can be undertaken only for political 
objects. 

Secondly — This scheme, which in any case would require 
a long time for its execution, would interfere with and greatly 
delay, if not entirely prevent, the completion of a railway 
communication between Cairo and Suez, in connection with 
that already established between Alexandria and Cairo, and 
would thus be extremely injurious to our interests with ref¬ 
erence to India. 84 All that the British Government want in 
Egypt is an easy and rapid road to India for travellers, light 
goods, and letters and despatches. They want no ascend¬ 
ancy, no territorial acquisition: they only want a thorough¬ 
fare 5 but a thoroughfare they must have, free and unmo- 

82 F. CX 78/1156, Cowley to Clarendon, 4 June, 1855. 

83 Ibid. } Cowley, 4 June, 1855. 

84 This argument was weak, considering the fact that the Viceroy of Egypt had 
already ordered the rails for the Suez section of the railway and had arranged for 
the work to proceed on the line regardless of the fate of the canal. ~ F» O. 78/1156, 
Cowley to the Foreign Office, zi June, 1855. 



BEGINNINGS OF THE SUEZ CANAL 


3U 

lested: and the continuation of the railway would give them 
that thoroughfare rapid, while the continuation of the present 
political condition of Egypt as a dependency of the Turkish 
Empire gives them that thoroughfare free and secure. 

The third objection to the canal scheme is that Her Maj¬ 
esty’s Government cannot disguise from themselves that it 
is founded upon an antagonistic policy on the part of France 
with regard to Egypt, which they had hoped and believed 
had given way to the happy change which of late has taken 
place in the mutual relations of the two countries. . . 

This canal scheme has survived the policy out of which it 
arose, and it ought to give way to the altered and better 
policy which now guides the course of the two Govern¬ 
ments. 85 

The correspondence between the two Governments continued 
during June and July without any agreement having been reached 
by argument. Count Persigny, the French Ambassador at the 
Court of St. James, after conferring with the Emperor Napoleon 
III late in June, quoted him as saying that whatever sentiment he 
had about the canal, he would not press the project over British 
opposition, and all interference would cease, although he did not 
want the Turks to think that English influence had made him 
back down. 8,1 This created such a good impression in London that 
the British Government also agreed to let the matter drop, it be¬ 
ing tacitly understood that nothing would be done about the canal 
at all for the time being, and the subject was to be considered 
non avenu.*' 

At this point the canal project, as a political issue, temporarily 
entered a quiescent state. The “gentlemen’s agreement,” to¬ 
gether with the varying fortunes of the Crimean War, for the 
time being supplanted the canal in the councils of the allies. The 


85 Ibid., Foreign Office to Lord Cowley, 18 June, 1855. This statement was 
undoubtedly inspired by Palmerston. When De Lesseps visited England and con¬ 
ferred with Lord Palmerston late in June, he was struck with the fact that the 
objections voiced by Palmerston were those which Clarendon had mentioned, a with¬ 
out omitting one.” “ It was evident,” De Lesseps said, “ that he himself [Palmerston] 
had dictated them, or that they had, at all events, been written at his direction.” — 
De Lesseps, The Suez Canal, p. 148. 

F. O. 78/1156, Cowley to Clarendon, 30 June, 1855, (Confidential). 

87 Ibid., Foreign Office to Cowley, 2 and 18 July, 1855; De Lesseps, The Suez 
Canal, p. 133. De Lesseps understood this to mean that “ it would be necessary . . 
for the French Ambassador to abstain from using his official [italics mine] weight 
to influence the Porte in favour of the ratification, and for the English Ambassador, 
on his part, to abstain from demanding of the Porte any engagement contrary to 
the ratification.” 



3i4 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


canal idea, however, did not lapse. Its projectors, beginning a 
campaign of public education, profitably employed the following 
months in developing support among the merchant and scientific 
classes which would come in good stead in the trying days ahead. 

The frequent declarations made by English authorities that the 
idea of a maritime canal across the Isthmus of Suer, was funda¬ 
mentally unsound and intrinsically impracticable, coupled with 
the unrelenting hostility of the entire diplomatic corps, caused Do 
Lesseps to determine upon a new course of action. With implicit 
confidence that all reasonable persons must recognize the great 
advantages and entire feasibility of the canal, he undertook to 
carry his project over the obstacles raised by the English Gov¬ 
ernment to the English people themselves, whose support he 
reckoned so essential to the eventual success of his scheme. Ar¬ 
riving in London at the end of June, 1855, he busied himself with 
interviewing members of the Government and representatives of 
the mercantile class. One of his earliest conversations was with 
Lord Palmerston, to whom he outlined his plan frankly and in 
detail, expecting an equally candid reply. In this he "was not 
disappointed. 

I must tell you frankly [said the Prime Minister] that 
what we are afraid of losing is our commercial and maritime 
pre-eminence, for this Canal will put other nations on an 
equal footing with us. At the same time I must own that we 
are not quite easy on the score of the designs of France. Of 
course we have every confidence in the loyalty and sincerity 
of the Emperor, but who can answer for those who will come 
after him? 88 

Lord Clarendon was no more sympathetic in his views. u I must 
tell you,” he said, “ that the traditions of our Government are 
opposed to. the idea of a Canal across the Isthmus. And since I 
have gone into the question, I confess that my own ideas are un¬ 
favorable.” 88 

These cold-blooded responses were discouraging enough, but 
they were considerably atoned for by the enthusiasm displayed 
elsewhere for the canal idea. De Lesseps’ The Isthmus of Suez 
Question, issued at this time reviewing the advantages to be de¬ 
rived by English commerce from the executing of his project, was 

“ 9 , U °, ted in Perc > r Fi tzgerald, The Great Canal at Suez, I. m, 

89 Ibid., I, 53—54. ’ ” 

London; Longman, Brown, Green, & Longmans, 1855. 



BEGINNINGS OF THE SUEZ CANAL 315 

well received, as was the prospectus of the proposed Company. 
The East India Company issued a statement through Mr. J. C. 
Melvill, its Secretary, that “ . . . the Court [of Directors] must 
always feel a deep interest in the success of any undertaking that 
would facilitate the means of communication between this coun¬ 
try and India.” And the Peninsular and Oriental Company, who 
had favored the project from the first, so far ignored the attitude 
of the Foreign Office as to say that “ the importance of the results 
that would attend the junction of the Mediterranean and Red 
Seas by a navigable canal is . . . so potent, that no second opinion 
can exist in the matter; and should the project be carried to a 
successful issue, this company must of necessity participate in the 
effect it will produce not only upon the commerce of this coun¬ 
try, but of the whole world.” 01 Opinion in India also was gen¬ 
erally favorable to the canal. The Calcutta Review , represen¬ 
ting current opinion in the eastern mercantile centers, said, 
a The more the mind reflects upon the true import of this grand 
undertaking, the more vast and comprehensive do its advantages 
appear.” 02 

While this visit to England sowed seeds on fertile soil, it availed 
nothing toward lifting the weight of English official opposition. 
Upon his return to Paris in August, De Lesseps rapidly com¬ 
pleted arrangements for another measure designed* to convince 
doubtful minds as to the feasibility of the maritime canal from 
an engineering point of view. This was the convening at Paris 
of noted engineers from all the principal countries of western 
Europe, who, acting in concert as an International Scientific Com¬ 
mission, were to pass final judgment on the practicability of a 
sea-level canal and to estimate its cost. De Lesseps selected as 
members of this important body two Englishmen, McLean and 
Rendel; Conrad, an expert on the dike system of Holland; Ne- 
grelli, Director of Public Works in Austria, who had been a mem¬ 
ber of the isthmian survey of 1847, an( i others appointed by the 
Governments of Piedmont, Prussia, and Austria. 88 

After a brief and sympathetic consideration of the problem, the 
Commission selected a sub-committee of five members to carry 
, out a new and thorough survey of the Isthmus of Suez. This 
group proceeded at once to Egypt, where the Viceroy gave them 
every facility for executing their work as promptly as possible. 
The survey was completed early in January, 1856? although the 

ox Ferdinand de Lesseps, Inquiry into the Of inions of the Commercial Classes of 
Great Britain , pp. 2, 35 Fitzgerald, of. cit. } I, 54 * 

02 Calcutta Review , XXIV, 341-342. 

»» Charles-Ronx, of. cit. } I, 264-2655 Fitzgerald, of. at., T, 56. 



316 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

final report was not published until about a year afterward. 0 ' 4 It 
was again conclusively shown that no essential difference in levels 
existed between the Mediterranean and Red Seas; that fresh water 
could be found at many points along the proposed route of the 
canal; that the excavation of the canal would be easy; and that 
no material obstacles existed to the construction of ports and dock¬ 
ing facilities at Suez or at the end terminating near Pelusium on 
the Mediterranean. A direct rather than an indirect track be¬ 
tween the two seas was advocated, and the idea of a canal utilising 
the Nile was definitely discarded. It was shown that the oft- 
expressed fears of “ arm chair engineers ” that the mouths of the 
canal would soon silt up and that the channel itself would be filled 
by blowing sand were groundless. It was considered that no 
K sluices ” or locks would be required in constructing the chan¬ 
nel in order to prevent it from becoming a “ stinking ditch.” The 
expense of construction was estimated at £6,000,000, a much 
smaller sum than the minimum estimate prepared earlier by 
Robert Stephenson. 95 

Even this report, however, did not suffice to silence doubtful 
critics in England, who continued in the face of unbiased and in¬ 
disputable scientific evidence to cry out against the impossibility of 
executing the great work at any figures which would admit of 
profitable returns. 00 The argument was even advanced in the 
Edinburgh Review, which was generally viewed as a mouthpiece 
of Lord Palmerston, that the canal would save little either of 
time or expense in the Anglo-Indian passage. 07 

As the English shareholders will inevitably find the route 
round the Cape is infinitely preferable for commercial pur¬ 
poses [said the Review ], we may rest assured that the Canal 
will never be executed; or, if it were opened, it would, as in 
ancient times, soon be closed again, as it could never pay its 
working expenses. . . At present the people of England are 

°* See Refort and. Plan of the International Scientific Commission; luith Ap¬ 
pendix containing the latest official documents (London, 1857); Chark>Roux, 
of. cit,, I, 268, 445-44.6. 

95 Ref art and Flan of the International Scientific Commission^ pp. 39—114; De 
Lesseps, The Suez Canal , pp. 220-22 ij Robert Stephenson, The Isthmus of Suez 
Canal (London, 1858). 

96 Charles-Roux, of. cit I, 270—271. McLean, the English engineer attached 
to the International Commission, did not agree with his colleagues on several points, 
for instance, as regarded the practicability of a sea-level canal without locks. Lord 
Clarendon was told that the report “ was worded in a manner which enabled him 
to sign it.” F. 0 ., 78/1340, John Green to Lord Clarendon, 4 Jan., 1856. 

7 A des Patch from the Foreign Office on 10 September spoke of the canal as being 
a well treated” in this issue. — F. 0. 78/1340, Clarendon to Bruce, 10 Sept, 1856. 



BEGINNINGS OF THE SUEZ CANAL 317 

interested in the completion of the Railroad through Egypt 

and not the Canal. 08 

While members of the English Government were refusing to 
be convinced by the report of the International Commission, Said 
Pasha found in it sufficient warrant for issuing a new and revised 
concession for the proposed Canal Company. This document, 
dated January 5, 1856, had particular reference to the cutting of 
a sea-level canal by the route recommended by the International 
Commission. Some of its provisions, however, were designed to 
calm the real or feigned fears of Great Britain. Four-fifths of all 
workmen employed were to be Egyptians. Lands granted to the 
Canal Company either for temporary or permanent use were to 
remain under Egyptian sovereignty. And it was specified that 
the canal with its ports cc shall always remain open as a neutral 
passage to every merchant ship without preference,” upon the 
payment of dues.” 9 This was the basis on which the Company 
was presently brought into actual existence. 

In January, 1856, soon after the report of the Suez Canal 
Commission had become known in London, Lord Clarendon urged 
Lord Stratford de Redcliffe again to point out to the Sultan the 
likelihood of the detachment of Egypt from the Turkish Empire 
in case the canal were to be constructed. With regard to the en¬ 
thusiasm of the Viceroy for De Lesseps’ plan, Clarendon said, 
“ The urgency of the Pasha is sufficiently intelligible upon these 
grounds.” 190 Thus encouraged, Lord Stratford, with great satis¬ 
faction continued his notoriously hostile tactics at Constantinople, 
while Bruce in Egypt was bringing as much pressure as he could 
muster to bear on the Viceroy. 101 

About the same time the agent of the Red Sea and India Tele¬ 
graph Company, Lionel Gisborne, was in Egypt for the purpose 
of securing permission for the erection of land wires between 
Alexandria and Suez by way of Aden to Bombay. Although 

08 Edinburgh Review, CIII, 236-265. See the able refutation of this article by 
M. Bart he! my St, Hilaire* New Facts and Figures Relative to the Isthmus of Suez 
Canal, (Ed* by M* Ferdinand de Lesseps), (London, 1856), pp. 34, 35, 88 ff. The 
English corvette Tartarus under Capt, Mansell, was despatched to verify the sound¬ 
ings in the Bay of Pelusium reported by the International Scientific Commission. 
The findings of this independent survey practically coincided with those reported 
by the Commission, though they were made to appear unfavorable. — F. O. 78/1340, 
Bruce to Clarendon, 21 July, 1856. 

99 St. Hilaire, New Fads and Figures, pp. 181-190; De Lesseps, The Suez 

Canal, p. 233. 

100 F. O, 78/1340, Clarendon to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, 21 Jan,, 1856. 

301 Ibid,, John Green to Lord Clarendon, 4 Jan.; ibid,, Bruce to Clarendon, 

4 March, zt July, 1856, 



3 i8 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

strongly supported in his suit by Consul-General_Bruce, Gibsornc 
was baffled by the procrastination of Egyptian Ministers and their 
scarcely veiled reluctance to give consideration to any British com¬ 
mercial undertaking in view of the obstructionist tactics of British 
authorities with regard to the Suez Canal. Still hoping to create 
a friendly attitude in England, De Lesseps recommended to the 
Viceroy that the matter be disposed of promptly. 1 he latter 
thereupon gave plenipotentiary powers to De Lesseps for arrang¬ 
ing the terms of the concession, and the necessary document was 
soon completed, to the satisfaction of English interests and the 
credit of the canal projector. 102 

The close of the Crimean War early in 1856, far from pro¬ 
ducing any greater degree of unanimity among the British, 
French and Turkish Governments, had a tendency to encourage 
British diplomats to ignore the tacit agreement made with the 
Emperor Napoleon late in 1855 an d to revive the canal as an 
open political issue. All of De Lesseps’ efforts to have the canal 
question reviewed by the representatives of the Powers assembled 
at Paris in February and March for the purpose of preparing 
a general peace treaty were unavailing. These diplomats even 
refused to insert a clause into the Treaty of Paris guaranteeing 
the perpetual neutrality of any maritime canal which might in 
future be constructed across the Isthmus of Suez. 10,1 One of the 
Turkish Ministers present also declared himself altogether op¬ 
posed to the canal. 10 ' 1 

In April De Lesseps made another visit to England to attempt 
to arrive at an understanding with the Foreign Office. Again he 
conferred with Lord Palmerston. “ I found Lord Palmerston 
just as he was in 1840,” he wrote, “ defiant and prejudiced against 
France and Egypt.” 105 Conferences with Lord Clarendon, 
Prince Albert, the Queen and others were no more productive 
than that with Lord Palmerston. 

Meanwhile, reports from Constantinople and Egypt alarmed 
De Lesseps, and caused his early return to the first scene of his 
labors. English and Turkish intrigues were making great head¬ 
way in poisoning the mind even of the Viceroy against the canal 
scheme. Utterly weary of opposition and defeat, foiled on every 

102 Be Lesseps, The Suez Canal , pp. 238, 239. Be Lesseps could rightly take 
pride in recording in this connection, u 1 have used all means in my power to promote 
the liberal principle of free telegraphic communication between England and its 
eastern possessions across Egyptian territory,” 

103 Be Lesseps, of. cit., p. 233*, Fitzgerald, of. at,, I, 72. 

104 F. O. 78/1340, Cowley to Clarendon, 3 April, 1856. 

105 Be Lesseps, The Suez Canal , pp. 256-257. 



BEGINNINGS OF THE SUEZ CANAL 


3i9 

hand, and with the Turkish officers of his own troops displaying 
mutinous signs, Sa'id was nearly ready to give over the whole canal 
enterprise for the sake of safety and peace. 108 Upon learning of 
these dangerous symptoms, De Lesseps tarried only long enough 
in Paris before his return to Egypt to prepare a memorandum 
for the Emperor. In this he called Napoleon’s attention to the 
“ gentlemen’s agreement ” of the previous year which had been 
so flagrantly broken by the British Government. 

Up to this time [he said] Lord Stratford has never ceased 
to make use of his influence to inspire the Ministers of the 
Porte with prejudices against the plan of cutting through 
the Isthmus of Suez and to prevent the ratification of the 
grant regularly and legally made by the Viceroy of Egypt. 

It is, moreover, certain that the English agent in Egypt 
has endeavoured to influence the Viceroy with a view to dis¬ 
suading him from a project which excites the warmest sym¬ 
pathy in France as well as in the rest of Europe. . . The 
Turks, placed between the powerful threats of Lord Strat¬ 
ford and the scrupulous silence which our Ambassador has 
been ordered to maintain, are naturally changing their at¬ 
titude, and testifying feelings hostile to the Canal, to which 
they were at first favourable. 107 

At this point, De Lesseps disclosed a new and powerful factor 
in the critical state of canal negotiations when he pointed out the 
recent formation of “ an English Company, which is to have 
a grant for the construction of a railway, 350 leagues in length, 
from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf. . . This railway, 
the surveys for which are not yet commenced, is today quoted at 
a premium in the London money market.” 108 

Here was the clue to the canal’s sudden loss of prestige, to the 
defection of its Turkish friends, and to the arrogant confidence 
of the British Foreign Office in refusing longer even a neutral at¬ 
titude toward the Maritime Canal Company. The Egyptian 
Railway had served to counter-balance the Suez Canal idea for a 
time, and French hostility to the railway justified British in¬ 
tolerance of a navigable waterway. Even while the railway, once 
approved by the Porte, was in building, it was steadily maintained 
that with the completion of the line the canal would have no 
additional advantages to offer. But by the close of 1856 the rail- 

100 Fitzgerald, op. ciL, I, 79. 

107 De Lesseps, The Sue% Canal, pp. 290—291. 

xm Ikid., p. 291. 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


320 

way line between Alexandria and Cairo had been in use for a con¬ 
siderable time and the road from Cairo to Suez was well across 
the desert. Yet sentiment in Europe in favor of a canal was 
stronger than ever. The Egyptian Railway had served its pur¬ 
pose as a political pawn. But to take its place, a far more formid¬ 
able scheme had arisen. It was now proposed to connect the 
Mediterranean coast with the Persian Gulf, which was adjacent 
to India, with a line of railway which would speed up communica¬ 
tion far beyond the possibilities either of an Egyptian Railway or 
a Suez Canal. At the same time the limitless resources of Meso¬ 
potamia, a potential granary, were to be developed. The novelty, 
daring, and apparent reasonableness of this scheme were de¬ 
pended upon to capture the popular imagination as the Suez 
Canal idea had, and in this the projectors were not disappointed. 



CHAPTER XIII 


THE EUPHRATES VALLEY RAILWAY 

T HE settlement of the Turco-Egyptian problem in 1841, 
closely following the official opening of the overland 
route through Egypt, brought an end to contemporary 
English plans for developing a land and water line from Syria 
through Mesopotamia to the Persian Gulf. For nearly fifteen 
years thereafter political conditions in the Near East were in a 
state of relative quiescence, and with Russia and France intent on 
other matters and Persia, Turkey, and Egypt engaged in no more 
than the usual intrigues, little alarm was felt for the safety of the 
Indian approaches. The overland route meanwhile functioned 
well and supplied a convenient road not merely to India but to 
the whole of the East. The line through Syria and Mesopotamia, 
which had long since come to be regarded as a possible alternative 
route, pointed to India alone and was not capable of practical de¬ 
velopment by any known means. It was, in consequence, almost 
entirely neglected during these years. 

However, the issues inherent in the peculiar combination of 
races, geographic influences, and national interests in the Near 
and Middle East were merely dormant during this interval and 
only awaited a favorable opportunity for cropping out in virulent 
form. Soon after 1850 major difficulties arose both in Turkey 
and in Persia, and as each had a distinct political bearing on the 
security of India, a new interest suddenly awoke in England and 
the Indian Presidencies in the strategic Mesopotamian route to 
India. A sketch of some of the fundamental problems involved 
will throw considerable light on the first and most promising of 
the several projects for a Euphrates Valley Railway, which served 
as a parade ground for imperialists and a pawn for statesmen from 
time to time after 1850. 

The aggressions and jealousies which culminated in the Crimean 
War had much to do with the rise of plans for a British-owned 
Mesopotamian railway. The first incidents which led to this use- 

321 



322 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

less war were local and more or less obscure, d hey were much like 
the dissensions among the various sects in Syria Mohammedans, 
Jews, Greek and Roman Catholics — which had often risen be¬ 
fore. It was the appeal of the two groups of Christians to their 
natural protectors, Russia and France respectively, which paved 
the way for an extension of trouble. 1 

The Powers chiefly concerned for one reason or another were 
not averse from taking sides. France, under Louis Napoleon 
Bonaparte, soon to become Napoleon III, was particularly eager 
for a show of strength. Despite the Emperor’s protestations that 
he stood for peace, his neighbors were neither surprised nor en¬ 
tirely unprepared when his imperialism introduced a new tension 
into diplomatic relations. As the shrewd Charles Greville con¬ 
fided to his Memoirs in 1853, “ It is difficult to make out what the 
French are at; with all our intimacy, we must keep on our guard 
against all contingencies on the part of our imperial neighbor.” 2 

Tsar Nicholas welcomed the hostilities among the sects in 
Turkey as an evidence that the Ottoman Empire would be un¬ 
able to survive much longer. As early as 184.4 he had referred 
to the Sultan in a conference with Lord Aberdeen as a “ sick man,” 
and had made tentative overtures for a partition of his territorial 
effects upon the demise of the invalid. The suggestion had fallen 
on sterile ground. A similar proposal made to the British Am¬ 
bassador in 1853 was given no cordial reception because of the 
knowledge that Nicholas was already preparing to take aggressive 
steps against Turkey. Britain had learned the lesson taught by the 
Triple Alliance of 1827. There was not to be a second Navarino. 

At first the English Government anticipated no dangerous out¬ 
growths from the religious discord in Turkey. Two aggravating 
elements, however, soon transformed a minor quarrel into a major 
crisis. One of these was the hatred of the British Ambassador at 
the Porte, Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, for Russia. The other 
was the design of Napoleon III, who had already conceived a 
deep dislike for the Tsar, and who saw in the delicately balanced 
Eastern Question an opportunity to make political capital both 
at home and abroad. It was natural, therefore, that when Napo¬ 
leon came forward as the champion of all the Roman Catholic 
Christians in Syria and Palestine and was so recognized by the 
Turkish Government, Nicholas at once insisted on the recognition 
of his position as protector of all Greek Christians. The Turkish 

1 W. Miller, The Ottoman Empire and Its Successors , 1801-1922, pp. 199 ff. 

2 The Greville Memoirs (8 vols., London, 1898), VII, 103* See Spencer Wal¬ 
pole, The Life of Lord John Russell (2 vols,, London, 1889), II, 176-1775 Hon. 
E, Ashley, The Life of Henry John Temple> Viscount Palmerston (2 vols., London, 



THE EUPHRATES VALLEY RAILWAY 323 

Council, dominated by Lord Stratford, who acted throughout 
the crisis quite independently of instructions from the Foreign 
Office, refused the Russian demand. Mediatory efforts of Great 
Britain, Austria and Prussia were unavailing. Secure in the con¬ 
fidence that Britain and France would not permit a despoiling 
of Ottoman territory, and not averse from a war with the tradi¬ 
tional enemy, the Turks were gleeful when Russian forces crossed 
the Pruth into their Danubian provinces in November, 1853. 

Events marched rapidly on. Foiled by Turkish stamina in 
their plan of reaching Constantinople quickly by land, the Russians 
attacked and quickly destroyed the Turkish fleet at Sinope, thus 
opening up a road by sea. The “ massacre ” of Sinope proved 
to be a boomerang for Russia as Navarino had been for Great 
Britain. The British Cabinet, already wavering, could no longer 
remain neutral. A political cou'p by Lord Palmerston in Decem¬ 
ber, 1853, committed the British Government to intervention. 3 
An alliance with France was concluded early in 1854, and the 
Crimean War was formally opened. Austria and Prussia, each 
of whom apparently had as much, or more, cause to oppose Russia 
by force of arms, remained neutral — an indication that the ori¬ 
ental elements in the outbreak of the war were more potent than 
the occidental. 

The action of Great Britain in resorting to arms against Russia 
was a surprise to both friends and enemies. The British case 
was less obvious even than that of the French, but it was more 
fundamental. This is suggested by the fact that Britain was will¬ 
ing to make common cause with a Power commonly looked upon 
as a dangerous rival, if not an enemy. Even suspicions of bad 
faith on the part of this ally during the war 4 and the evacuation 
of the Danubian principalities by Russian forces failed to lead 
to a negotiated peace in March, 1855, when there appeared to be 
no adequate reason for protracting hostilities. The explanation 
lies in the fact that the theme pervading this whole unfortunate 
struggle was Asiatic, not European. It mattered little to Great 
Britain whether the war was conducted in the Balkan Peninsula 
or on the shores of the Black Sea. The object was to relieve the 
long-accumulating pressure on Turkey and to check the progress 
of Russian arms towards the Persian Gulf and the frontiers of 

3 B. K. Martin, u The Resignation of Lord Palmerston in 1853 . . in The 
Cambridge Historical Journal , I, 107-x 12 5 also his The Triumph of Lord Palmerston 
(New York, 1924), pp. 166-183. 

4 L. J. Jennings (Ed.), The Correspondence and Diaries of John Wilson Croker 
(2 voIs., London, 1884), I, 498-505 j Stanley Lane-Poole (Ed.), Life of Stratford 
Canning^ Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe ... (2 vols., London, 1888), II, 302, 
308} The Gremlle Memoirs, VII, 139. 



324 


BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


India. It was the same general theme as had pervaded Near 
Eastern politics, with few intermissions, from 18a6 to 1841. The 
passage to the East must 'be safeguarded. This fundamental 
feature of the war was not generally comprehended in England 
at the time, but it was no less fundamental for all that. 

That the underlying concern of Great Britain was to be found 
in routes to the East is further indicated by the change in attitude 
toward both Russia and France at the close of the war. Russia, 
having been checked in her conquests for the time being, was no 
longer a source of great concern. The Persian key-fortress, Kars, 
which had been seized by the Russians in November, 1855, had 
been restored, and Russia had given up her claims to the protection 
of Greek Christians in Turkey. The Turkish Empire had been 
strengthened by small additions of teritory at Russian expense, 
and further fortified by being admitted to the European family 
of states by the Paris Congress. The Russian peril had at least 
temporarily subsided. 5 

France, on the other hand, emerged from the war a strong 
Mediterranean Power with a distinct appetite for intervention in 
the East. Some of the British feeling of suspicion and hostility 
lately directed at Russia therefore came to focus on the late ally, 
whose motives and purposes none could fathom. 0 The Mediter¬ 
ranean as a French lake with French influence entrenched on its 
eastern shores was scarcely preferable to Russian arms in the Dan- 
ubian principalities or south of the Caucasus. All due precau¬ 
tions were taken, therefore, to safeguard British interests in the 
Mediterranean as long as the French had large forces which might 
be used for some ambitious project in the eastern Mediterranean. 7 
At the close of the Crimean War, Lord Clarendon, Foreign 
Secretary, wrote to Lord Panmure, Secretary for War — 

You cannot too soon, although in an unostentatious way, 
put Malta in a complete state of defence, and Gibraltar too. 

It will be easy as well as natural, to deposit at those places 
the guns, so necessary for their defence, that you will be 
bringing home from the Crimea. 8 


A little later, instructions couched in similar vein were sent 
from the War Office to Admiral Codrington, who was assisting 

s T. E. Holland, The European Concert in the Eastern Ouestion (Oxford, 188O 
pp. 245-246. ~ 

t ^ a “ e " Poole > ° t - cit -> n > 418-421, 433; The Greville Memoirs, VII, 229. 
Ashley, of. at., II, 123. ’ y 

8 f T Geo *p Douglas and Sir George Ramsay (Eds.), The Panmure Papers 
(2 vols., London, 1908), II, 167, 173, 194. r 



THE EUPHRATES VALLEY RAILWAY 325 

in the evacuation of forces from the Crimea. With these prepara¬ 
tions going on in the Mediterranean, it was natural for the British 
Government to display an active interest in any feasible plan for 
riveting British domination on those parts of Asia which were ob¬ 
jects of so much solicitude and which had already in indirect ways 
caused the expenditure of so much blood and treasure. 

During these years British troubles were not confined to the 
situation in Turkey. Conditions in Persia, never very satisfactory, 
had rapidly become critical with the revival of the Herat ques¬ 
tion. In 1851 the Persian Government undertook to reassert 
its claim of sovereignty over the little mountain state so strategi¬ 
cally situated with reference to the frontiers of India. The Brit¬ 
ish Government obj ected to this purpose, because — 

... So long as Herat remains under Afghan domina¬ 
tion, Her Majesty’s Government can at its discretion ap¬ 
point an Agent or Consul to reside in that city. But as soon 
as it becomes recognized as an integral portion of the Per¬ 
sian dominions, this power ceases, and is transferred to the 
Persian Government, which would then enjoy unfettered 
liberty for the diffusion of its name throughout Afghanistan 
and other countries adjacent to Herat. 9 

The Persians insisted that they had no sinister designs on the 
fortress state, but merely desired a recognition of Persia’s ancient 
political rights. 10 The British Government, however, believed 
that a formal engagement regulating Persian rights of interven¬ 
tion in the affairs of Herat might prevent future misunderstand¬ 
ings, and after a series of negotiations extending for more than 
a year a treaty was drawn up between Britain and Persia whereby 
the latter was not to send troops into Herat unless that state was 
attacked from without. 11 This action of Great Britain left a legacy 
of dislike in Persia which brought complications shortly afterward. 

After the breach of diplomatic relations between Great Britain 
and Russia, the latter sent an envoy to the Persian Court to sug¬ 
gest that the moment was opportune for a joint Russo-Persian at¬ 
tack on Turkey. In case of successful operations, Persia was to 
retain what she had taken or to give it back upon indemnification, 

9 British and Foreign State Papers, XLV, 642 f.j Sir John Shell to Lord Palmer¬ 
ston, 29 Dec., 1851. 

10 Ibid^ pp. 661-727. 

11 Ibid.) pp. 727-731, “Engagement of the Persian Government regarding 
Herat,” 25 Jan., 1853. See C. U. Aitchison, Collection of Treaties , Engagements and 
Sunnuds y VII, 71. 



326 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

and in any event the remainder of the Persian indemnity to Russia, 
dating from the Treaty of Turkmanshah, was to be remitted. 
After some hesitation, the Persian authorities found this prospect 
too attractive to resist, especially since no counter proposition 
could be expected from Great Britain as compensation for Persian 
neutrality. In consequence of these developments, the British 
minister to Persia suffered grave indignities, and toward the end 
of 1855 he 'broke off diplomatic relations and left Teheran. 1 " 

The failure of the British, who were preoccupied with the Rus¬ 
sian war, immediately to follow up the Persian situation, gave rise 
to the typically oriental conclusion that Great Britain had been 
out-manoeuvred and had retired from the scene. The moment 
seemed propitious for tearing up the humiliating treaty of 1 853. 
Hence, in the early months of 1856 a Persian army invaded the 
territory of Herat and marched to attack the fortress-city. A 
position so strong could not be taken readily, and it was only after 
a siege of several months and the able services of a French en¬ 
gineer that the place capitulated in October. 13 

A position so commanding could not safely be left in posses¬ 
sion of a state associated with Russia, and a British offensive was 
mandatory. The first step was to arrange a treaty of alliance with 
Dost Mohammed, Amir of Afghanistan, providing for a joint cam¬ 
paign against Persia. 14 This done, a declaration of war on Persia 
was issued, and a plan of campaign mapped out which might 
accomplish its aim without proving too burdensome. 115 From "the 
British bases in India, Persia was most vulnerable in her southern 
seaports. A combined military and naval force, operating from 
Kurrachee, first attacked and took the island of Karrack, covering 
the landing of a military force near the important port of Bushire 
This town having been captured, a swift campaign was made 
into the interior, followed by an ascent of the Karun River by a 
fleet of gunboats and transports. This continued as far as Ahwaz, 
which was captured after a brief but interesting engagement. 1 " 

Already the Persian Goverument had tired of the unprofitable 
war and had sued for peace. The final terms of the treaty, drawn 
up in Paris, were much more generous than the Persians had any 

12 Brit, and For. St. Pap., XLVII, 94-281. 

13 Pari. Pap., 1857-1858, No. 70, p. 8. 

14 Sir Percy Sykes, History of Persia, II, 349. This treaty was subsidiary to one 
of perpetual peace and friendship negotiated by Sir John Lawrence in 1855, not a 
slight accomplishment in itself. 

15 Brit, and For. St. Pap., XLVII, 282 ff. 

16 See Lieut.-Gen. Sir James Outram 3 s Persian Campaign in 1857} . . . also 
selections from his correspondence as Commander-in-chief and Plenipotentiary . \ 
(London, priv. pr., i860) j George Dodd, The History of the Indian Remit and of 
the Expeditions to Persia 3 China and Japan (London, 1859), 



THE EUPHRATES VALLEY RAILWAY 327 

reason to hope for. 17 The Shah promised entirely to withdraw his 
forces from Herat and to recognize the complete independence 
of the Afghan state. Great Britain was to exercise the office of 
mediator in case of any future trouble between the two countries. 
Other than these agreements and a few apologies, the Persians 
came off scot free, which led to better Anglo-Persian relations 
for several years subsequently than had existed for a long time. 
Not the least of the virtues of the treaty was its conclusion in time 
for the return of British forces to India during the earliest stages 
of the Mutiny. 

The Russian alliance with Persia, the attack on Herat, and the 
need of placing a British force quickly on Persian soil all con¬ 
tributed materially to a study of ways and means of reducing 
distances between England and India, and particularly to a con¬ 
sideration of lines extending from the Mediterranean to the 
Persian Gulf. Any such line would have a far greater political 
value than that through Egypt. It would tend to neutralize 
French influence in Egypt and in Syria, and would forestall Russia 
in her design of reaching the Persian Gulf. These, besides its 
numerous claims to prominence on grounds of economic pos¬ 
sibilities and advantages as a route for mail and passenger trans¬ 
portation, gave it an important, even if brief, place in the limelight. 

The project of constructing a Euphrates Valley Railway grew 
out of much the same kind of considerations as those which pro¬ 
duced the original Euphrates Expedition. Although the failure of 
the Euphrates Expedition and subsequent investigations of the 
Euphrates River had stopped all plans for the use of this passage 
while river steamers were the only means of establishing regular 
transit, the steady improvement of the steam locomotive and the 
success of various long lines of railway in other countries seemed to 
warrant new consideration of a route which appeared to be so 
well and in so many respects adapted by nature for a great high¬ 
way. In fact, interest in this route had never entirely ceased since 
the attempt to develop it as a water route to supplement or sup¬ 
plant the Red Sea passage. 18 Although the Euphrates Expedition 
did not find the rivers of Mesopotamia suited for regular steam 
communication and transportation, it did disclose the great com¬ 
mercial possibilities of Mesopotamia and the level and unbroken 

17 Brit, and For. St Paf . 3 XLVII, 42. Lord Palmerston is quoted as saying, 
u The Persian Expedition was most successful, the victories gained by it very brilliant, 
and the political results highly important.”— The Fanmure Pafers> II, 470. 

18 Asiatic Journal , 3d Ser., Ill, 77-S2, u On the Practicability of Advancing 
an Army from Europe into Asia by the Province of the Euphrates and Tigris,” by 
Dr. J. W» Winchester. 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


328 


valley leading from the mountains of Syria to the head of the 
Persian Gulf. Fertile minds had already caught visions of the 
many advantages to be derived from an opening of this region by 
steam railway instead of by steamer 13 while political and financial 
difficulties were yet too great to be overcome. 

By the middle of the nineteenth century the vogue of railway 
building was in full blast. The steam locomotive had caught the 
popular fancy. Railways were then expected to inaugurate a new 
era of communication, as much more rapd than the steamboat 
as that had been superior to the canal barge and the stage coach. 
At this time when considerable distances were actually being- 
bridged by railway lines in England, on the continent of Europe, 
and in India, the first tangible step was taken toward investigating 
the possibility of building a great trunk line from the English 
Channel or North Sea to Constantinople, from Scutari to Basrah, 
and from the Persian Gulf to India. 

The first ambitious but untimely project was brought forward 
by an Anglo-Indian engineer, Rowland Macdonald Stephenson, 
the Managing Director of the East Indian Railway Company. 30 
For years he had dreamed of constructing a “ World’s Highway ” 
which might one day extend from western Europe to the shores 
of eastern Asia. He first obtained the opinions of men who had 
long represented the British Government in parts of Central Asia, 
among them Sir John McNeill, Col. L. Hennell and Col. Justin 
Sheil, concerning the possibility of constructing a railway line 
through Persia and Baluchistan. All reported as believing it pos¬ 
sible, though they appeared doubtful of its practicability. 21 Next, 
in 1850, Stephenson made a kind of path-finding tour through 
Europe. Armed with credentials and letters of introduction from 
Lord Palmerston, he presented his project to the heads of the 
governments of practically all of the European states through 
which such a line as he proposed might run. Most of the replies 
to his queries were favorable; some were skeptical; while the at- 
titude of the French, who wished nothing to interfere with the 
line between Calais and Marseilles, was decidedly hostile . 22 

Many objections appeared to the idea of attempting the con¬ 
struction of a railway line through Europe under the auspices of 
a single company. Already several of the European countries 


C “ 1 ”' Wil,i " AU “- T, “ 

^ Calcutta jRsvi&iV) XXV, 145, 151. 

C t , P f' WWE Whl1 ® Slr J olln McNeill showed little enthusiasm for 

Stephenson s plan xt ,s quite possible that this influenced him in supporting another 
Euphrates Valley Railway project a few years later. 

22 Ibid., pp. 171-173. 



THE EUPHRATES VALLEY RAILWAY 329 

were developing railway systems of their own which within a few 
years promised to furnish a continuous passage from the English 
Channel to the frontiers of European Turkey. But the outbreak 
of the Crimean War, and the nature of the relations of France, 
Turkey, and Russia with Great Britain, encouraged the proj ector 
to revive his proposal in modified form. 

On March 31, 1855, he wrote to Palmerston that he believed 
the time ripe for a reconsideration of an international railway line, 
since European lines were almost complete from the English 
Channel to the Danube, and those in India were rapidly pushing 
forward." 3 The sections of a through railway not already pro¬ 
vided for were those through the Turkish Empire. He con¬ 
sidered the time very favorable for obtaining from the Sultan 
a concession which would enable a private company to complete the 
railways which would link up those of East and West. Such a 
road, he believed, connecting the European lines with those of 
India at Bombay by a route through European and Asiatic Tur¬ 
key and Persia, would be of great value to all of the countries 
traversed. It would, he was convinced, “ secure the means of 
proceeding from London to and from all parts of India within a 
period of one week, and at a cost of less than half what is now paid 
for a 6 weeks’ or 4 months’ passage.” 24 

Palmerston did not find it advisable to encourage this project, 
partly because of the danger of further complicating the delicate 
European situation and partly because of the fact that other plans 
were in the making which promised equal advantages and in¬ 
volving no such extensive political problems. This ancestral form 
of the German Bagdadbahn idea was therefore suffered to pass 
from the scene, although it had the support of the Government 
of India, which, at Lord Dalhousie’s instance, had agreed to “ as¬ 
sist in surveys and otherwise as far as authority and funds 
permit.” 25 

Other suggestions for developing an alternative route through 
Mesopotamia meanwhile came both from individual and corporate 
sources. 20 A rather highly developed proj ect was brought forward 
in 1854 for developing the existing trade through Syria to Meso¬ 
potamia, Persia, and India. The political and strategic value of 

23 Edward Davidson, The Railways of India, with an Account of their Rise, 
Progress and Construction . . . (London, 1868), pp. 144-153. 

24 Calcutta Review, XXV, 173—174. 

25 iy t d n p. 175—Letter from the Government of India to R. M. Stephenson, 
30 Jan., 1856. 

2< * Lanc-Poole (Ed.), Life of Chesney, pp. 383, 412, 424. Chesney claimed to 
be the first to propose a Euphrates Valley railway as he had claimed to be the pioneer 
in proposing other means of developing both this and the Suez route earlier. 



330 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA. 

such a line was urged in an application to the Foreign Office for 
pecuniary support and diplomatic assistance." None of these 
schemes was given countenance by the Foreign Office. 

Plans for a railway through Mesopotamia were not confined to 
the English world, however. A French company made overtures 
to the Ottoman Government about the time of the outbreak of 
the Crimean War, soliciting a concession and certain guarantees 
for a Mesopotamian railway to be built under French auspices. 
Because of the rivalry which had already developed between 
France and Britain over the Suez Canal, this project made little 
headway toward securing a finnan authorizing the road. 2h But the 
concentrating of attention in the Near East in connection with the 
advance of Russia and the Crimean War, coupled with the several 
plans and suggestions for a railroad between the Mediterranean 
and the Persian Gulf, could hardly fail to appeal to both states¬ 
men and influential promoters for securing favorable terms from 
the Turks. 

It secures once and for ever the independence of the Sul¬ 
tan [said the Calcutta Review ]. No power will endure to 
see the charge of the Highway of the world pass into the 
hands of any but a second-rate potentate. That Russia will 
resist we cannot hesitate to believe. . . It is therefore 
doubly necessary to seize a time when her resistance will 
avail nothing, will be rather a sound and valid reason for 
proceeding rapidly with the undertaking. . . When the first 
locomotive from Calcutta reaches Calais, the freedom of 
Europe from the Cossacks will have been secured. 29 

By the time these considerations, together with the forward state 
of Suez Canal plans, had led the British Government to smile upon 
any such undertaking as a railway through Asiatic Turkey, a new 
proposition was ready at hand fully adapted to the needs of the 
situation. 

At the close of the Crimean War, a railway authority of some 
repute, Mr. (later Sir) William Patrick Andrew, Chairman of 
the Scinde, Punjab, and Delhi Railways, came forward to ad¬ 
vocate a “ direct route ” between the Mediterranean and the 
Persian Gulf. His primary object in promoting the scheme was 
to bring about the construction of a line which might eventually 
be linked up with the railway system he was constructing in India, 
thus providing an all-rail communication between all parts of 

27 Life of Chesney, p. 423. 29 Calcutta Review, XXV, 160-161. 

28 Ibid., pp. +24-425. 



THE EUPHRATES VALLEY RAILWAY 331 

India and Europe. 30 The schemes which had previously been sug¬ 
gested by Col. Chesney, Dr. James B. Thompson, R. M. Stephen¬ 
son/ 1 and others all served to convince Andrew of the practicabil¬ 
ity of building a direct line through the Euphrates Valley, and 
being a business man and promoter rather than a diplomat or an 
engineer, he proceeded to approach a number of interested per¬ 
sons with a scheme for a railway company to carry out the project. 

The move took shape with the formation early in 1856 of an 
Association for the Promotion of the Euphrates Valley, which 
soon issued a prospectus for a Euphrates Valley Railway. 32 The 
plan as worked out by the Association proposed — 

... To connect the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf 
by a railway from the ancient port of Seleucia by Antioch 
and Aleppo, to Ja’ber Castle on the Euphrates, of 80 miles 
in length, and afterwards from thence to Hit, and other 
towns, to Bagdad, and on to Kurnah, at the confluence of 
the Euphrates and Tigris, or Bussorah, at the head of the 
Persian Gulf. Thence by steamers, communication will be 
established with all parts of India. . . 

It is only proposed at present to execute the first section, 
about 80 miles of rail road, from the ancient port of Seleucia 
to Ja’ber Castle . . . below which point, the navigation of 
the river is permanently open for steamers of light draught 
and the boats of the country for 715 miles to Bussorah. . . ss 

On the pamphlets and prospectuses issued by the new Associa¬ 
tion, the advantages of the proposed road were made to appear 
very considerable. It was maintained that this “ short cut,” 34 
which when completed to the Persian Gulf would comprise some 
900 miles of railway, would shorten the passage to India by nearly 
IOOO miles, greatly reducing the time for Anglo-Indian com¬ 
munications. 35 It was also planned to link up this road, by means 

30 William P. Andrew, London to Lahore, or the Euphrates, Scinde and Punjaub 
Railway (London, 1857). 

31 W. P. Andrew, The Scinde Railway in its Relations to the Euphrates Valley 
and Other Routes to India (London, 1856), p. 200. 

32 Park Pap., 1871, No. 386, p. 57 j ibid., 1872, No. 322, p, 845 Andrew, 
Memoir on the Euphrates Valley Route to India (London, 1857), p. 175. 

33 Andrew, The Scinde Railway in its Relations to the Euphrates Valley and 
Other Routes to India, pp. 200-201. 

34 Ibid., p. 202j London Times , 6 June, 1856. The term “short cut” as 
applied to this route appears to have been used first by the Times. 

35 Two Travellers, The Euphrates Valley Routes to India: An Examination of 
the Memoir Published by Mr. W. P. Andrew (2d ed., London, 1857), p. 19. It is 
here shown that the distance saved by this route would not amount to 1000 miles, 
while the time gained would be but 3 or 4 days instead of 10. This pamphlet was 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA. 


332 

of a supplementary railway, with a European trunk line, once 
such an artery had been completed to Constantinople/''’ The Com¬ 
pany proposed, moreover, to develop the internal resources of 
Mesopotamia by reclaiming lands and by furnishing marketing 
facilities for such surplus products as might be raised by the Arabs. 
The strategic value of such a road was not overlooked. It was 
particularly recommended as a logical line for the sending of 
troops to India, the time of passage from England to Kurrachee 
being estimated at only 14 days when the road was complete. 
Since the Euphrates Valley was very level, the cost of building 
a railroad was estimated at the relatively low sum of £5000 to 
£6000 per mile. 37 The total cost was placed at £16,000,000. 

The principal concern of the promoters was to enlist the con¬ 
fidence and support of the British Government, and nothing was 
left undone to show what definite political advantages would be 
derived from the construction of such a line. Russia was still 
looked upon by many as a dangerous rival in the East as well after 
the Peace of Paris as before. Her defeat had scarcely been de¬ 
cisive, and the change in Anglo-French relations at the close of 
the war further counteracted the moral effects of the Crimean 
campaign. It Was in this connection that the Euphrates Valley 
Association scored most heavily. It was shown that Russia, in ex¬ 
tending her conquests southward to the point of endangering 
British interests, must follow one of four fairly well defined 
routes: (1) the line from Kars to the Euphrates Valley and Meso¬ 
potamia ; (2) that from Erivanby way of Lake Van to Mosul and 
thence to Bagdad5 (3) that from Tabriz to Shuster; or (4) the 
road leading from Teheran by Ispahan to Shuster and thence to 
the Persian Gulf. 38 All of these lines were intersected by the line 
of the Euphrates, “ which, running in an oblique direction from 
the head of the Gulf north of Antioch to the Persian Gulf, passes 
along the diagonal of a great quadrilateral, which has its two 
western corners on the Mediterranean, its two eastern on the 
Caspian and Persian Seas, and so takes all Russian lines of advance 
in the flank.” 39 

These arguments, coupled with the advocacy of the line by 

published, apparently, in the interests of the Suez Canal, and was a bitter arraign¬ 
ment of the Euphrates Valley project from beginning to end. See Andrew, The 
Scinde Railway, p. 36. 

36 Andrew, The Scinde Railway . . . pp. 203, 2045 Andrew, Memoir on the 
Euphrates Valley Route to India, p. iz n.; London Times, 20 May, 1S56. A 
Channel tunnel between Dover and Calais was suggested for further reduction of 
time, as it already had been on other occasions. 

37 Lane-Poole, Life of Chesney, pp. 428-429; London Times, 11 July, 1857. 

38 Andrew, Our Scientific Frontier (London, 1880), pp. 98-99. 

39 Ibid., p. 99. 



THE EUPHRATES VALLEY RAILWAY 333 

Indian authorities, carried great weight with the Government, 
chiefly because of the possibility of scotching the territorial ag¬ 
grandizement of Russia and of providing a worthy diversion to 
the Suez Canal project. Lord Clarendon expressed himself as 
entirely in favor of the proposition and pledged the support of the 
Government. Queen Victoria also expressed approval of the 
plan. Lord Palmerston carefully refrained from committing 
himself on the matter, although he allowed it to be understood 
that he greatly favored the idea of developing the direct route 
in preference to that through Egypt. 40 Palmerston’s real attitude 
at this time is indicated by the fact that the Foreign Office under¬ 
took to give diplomatic support at Constantinople for the securing 
of a concession from the Turkish Government. To this end, Sir 
Henry Bulwer was sent out to Constantinople on special mission, 
when all plans were ready, to assist Lord Stratford de Redcliffe 
in guiding the project through the devious channels of Turkish 
politics, made more than usually devious at this time by the at¬ 
tractions being offered by rival French projects. The proposition 
was taken up with Musurus Pasha, the Turkish minister in Eng¬ 
land, in March. 41 After some consideration, Musurus strongly 
approved the railway idea, and undertook to exert his influence on 
his Government. His recommendation carried considerable 
weight with the Grand Vizier, Aali Pasha, who expressed himself 
as favorably disposed toward the project before a formal request 
had been made for a concession from the Porte. 12 

At this point the railway project became associated with a plan 
for the construction of a line of electric telegraph through Euro¬ 
pean Turkey to the confines of India along the line of the rail¬ 
way. Such a plan was presented to the Foreign Office for ap¬ 
proval in June, 1856, and within a few weeks was given hearty 
approval for much the same reasons as applied to the railway 
plan. 13 The European and Indian Junction Telegraph Company, 
which numbered among its projectors several who were also con¬ 
nected with the railway, found its interests largely bound up with 
that enterprise. 41 Although the telegraph did not have the same 

40 Lane-Poole, of. cit., pp. 425—427 5 Two Travellers, of. cit., p. 19 6. 

41 Andrew, Memoir on the Euphrates Valley Route to India, pp. 192, 193. 

42 London Times, 4 Sept, 20 Nov., 1856. 

42 Ibid., 16 June, 18565 Andrew, Memoir on the Euphrates Valley Route to 
India, pp. 176, 229-249. 

M Andrew, A Letter to Viscount Palmerston on the Political Advantages of the 
Euphrates Valley Railway, and the Necessity of the Financial Support of Her 
Majesty's Government (London, 1857), pp. 56-58, <c Report of the Evidence in the 
Committee of the House of Commons on the European and Indian Junction Tele¬ 
graph Co. 5 ’; Telegraphic Communication with India, Reprinted from a The Times n 
and (t Morning Chronicle }> (London, 1858), p. 9, Kurrachee about this time ex- 



334 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

political value as the proposed railway, its fate hinged on the out¬ 
come of the negotiations of the Euphrates Valley Railway Com¬ 
pany in London and at the Porte. 

In August, 1856, the promoters of the railway received a hint 
from the Foreign Office that the necessary political support for 
the line might be expedited by some evidence of a scientific nature 
showing that the section proposed to be built first would be en¬ 
tirely feasible. In consequence of this suggestion, the Chairman 
of the Company, W. P. Andrew, immediately despatched two of 
his associates, Maj .-Gen. F. R. Chesney and John McNeill, to 
the Levant with the double purpose of carrying out some pre¬ 
liminary surveys and of assisting with the diplomatic negotiations 
at Constantinople. 45 Chesney, who had been made Consulting 
Engineer of the new Company because of his prominent connec¬ 
tion with the Euphrates route, was supplied with instructions from 
Andrew and papers from the Foreign Office giving him full 
powers in aiding Lord Stratford and Sir Henry Bulwer in securing 
a concession for the road/” While Chesney stopped at Con¬ 
stantinople, McNeill, accompanied by a corps of surveyors, pro¬ 
ceeded to the coast of Syria and occupied himself in inspecting 
the harbor of Seleucia (Suedia) and the adjacent coast, which 
had tentatively been selected as the western terminus of the line. 
Chesney joined him here later, and surveys were made of the 
Beilan Pass through the Amanus Mountains and of the proposed 
line as far as Aleppo. Although some formidable grades were 
found in the mountains, both engineers concluded that they of¬ 
fered no insuperable obstacle to a steam line. The harbor of 
Seleucia was found to be easily capable of improvement as a com¬ 
mercial or military port, and although not so commodious as that 
of Alexandretta, it was adjudged more desirable from the point 
of view of railway engineering. 47 

The railway and telegraph lines had meanwhile been debated 
at length in the Turkish Council. The early willingness of the 
Sultan’s advisers to grant concessions for these enterprises was 
gravely modified by the arguments brought forward by a power- 

perienced a real <c boom,” because of its relation to the projected lines of com¬ 
munication and the northwest frontier, and aspired to replace Bombay as the principal 
port of western India. Although this ambition was not realized, much of the 
development was of permanent character. — See W. P. Andrew, The Port of 
Kurrachee . . . (London, 1857) 5 A. F. Baillie, Kurrachee {Karachi) : Past 3 Present , 
and Future (London, 1890). 

45 London Times , 4 Sept., 1856, 

46 Andrew, Memoir on the Euphrates Valley Route to India , pp. 200-228. 

47 Lane-Poole, of. cit. } pp. 429-4535 London Times , 9 Sept., 1856. 



THE EUPHRATES VALLEY RAILWAY 335 

1 

ful French group for a rival railway project. The English con¬ 
cern demanded as the basis of their concession, first, a guarantee 
on the part of the Turkish Government of a minimum dividend 
of 6 % per annum for 99 years on the first section of the road from 
the Mediterranean to the Euphrates, with power to raise capital 
for steamers, etc., at a rate to be determined later; second, a lease 
for 99 years, free of charge, of all necessary land for the rail¬ 
way and works; and third, a guarantee against all competition 
from works of a similar nature, and the grant of lands, woods, 
and forests, the property of the Turkish State, at a certain dis¬ 
tance on either side of the line. 48 The French syndicate, on the 
other hand, required no such guarantees; and since they were 
strongly supported by influential persons in Paris, understood to 
be the Emperor and members of his family, the Turkish Minis¬ 
ters hesitated to accept the more formidable English project, in 
spite of the pressure exerted by Redcliffe backed by the Foreign 
Office. 40 Moreover, the agent of the French project was the ac¬ 
complished English traveller and diplomat, A. H. Layard, who 
from long and intimate acquaintance was -persona grata to some 
of the Turkish Ministers. Layard had long taken an interest in 
the Euphrates route, having taken an active part in the com¬ 
pletion of the surveys of the rivers of Mesopotamia and Persia 
in 1840 and 1841. 00 His activities on behalf of the French 
at a time when Anglo-French relations were rather strained are 
at least partly to be explained by his personal hostility to Lord 
Palmerston, and his strong disapproval of Palmerston’s entire 
foreign policy. 

During the progress of negotiations at the Porte, when it be¬ 
gan to appear that British influence would win the duel, the French 
agents proposed an amalgamation of British and French enter¬ 
prises, thus making the road essentially an international under¬ 
taking and maintaining a united Anglo-French front against Rus¬ 
sia. 01 This interesting proposal savored strongly of the arguments 
which had been used to enlist British support in behalf of the Suez 
Canal, and it was not long considered by the English interests. 
The feeling was strong since the close of the Crimean War that 
the French might prove to be as great a menace in the East as the 
Russians lately had been. Such complications greatly protracted 

48 Two Travellers, of . cit. } p. 17; London Times, 2 Dec., 1856, 10 Jan., 11 
Feb., 1857. 

40 Lane-Poole, of. cit,, p. 44.05 Morning Herald , 30 March, 4, n, 18 April, 
1857. 

50 A. H. Layard, Autobiografhy and Letters (2 vols., London, 1903), I, 
328-331. 

51 Lane-Poole, of. cit pp. 440-441. 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


336 

negotiations, however, and it was only on January 5, 1857, after 
the Turks had been reminded that they had most to expect in the 
way of future support from Great Britain, that a successful out¬ 
come was assured. 02 

The firman granted to the Euphrates Valle}' projectors was 
based on that prepared for Chesney’s Euphrates Expedition in 
1834. It conceded all of the points asked for by the Company, 
and once the matter was definitely settled, the Turkish Govern¬ 
ment displayed considerable enthusiasm for the new road. A 
concession for the proposed telegraph line was authorized about 
the same time. The Calcutta Review was jubilant over the pros¬ 
pects for a new “ overland route.” 03 

Verily, we live in stirring and marvellous times [it said]. 
When, ere many years are over, we are borne along the 
Euphrates-Valley Railway to England in 20 days, or along 
the “Worlds highway” in 10, while our thoughts are 
flashed along the telegraph wires in so many minutes, we 
shall begin to feel ourselves .so- close at home that we shall 
cease to consider our separation .from our mother country as 
“ an honourable exile.” 54 .. *rj 

The final report of .the surveying commission in charge of Sir 
John McNeill indicated"-nj6rfe';>avorable conditions for the con¬ 
struction of the first section of 150 miles of railway than had been 
anticipated at first. Few deep cuts or embankments appeared to 
be necessary, and the steepest mountain grade in prospect was 
much less formidable than many found in European lines. 
The principal difficulty lay in the frequency with which the River 
Orontes would have to be crossed and the number of bridges thus 
made necessary. On the whole, however, construction prospects 
were surprisingly good. Native labor appeared to be available 
in abundance. Most of the seven divisions of this first section 
of the line presented so few engineering problems that the 
average cost per mile came to be estimated at £8,858, a figure well 
below the original allowance of £ro,ooo . B5 

The Euphrates Valley Railway Company had meanwhile com¬ 
pleted its organization. Although the whole scheme rested on 
the assumption of the correctness of Chesney’s reports in 1837 

5 > a Lane-Poole, of. cit., pp. 441, 442. London Times, 10 Jan., 22 Jan., n July, 

l857* 

63 Andrew, Memoir on the Euphrates Valley Route to India , p. 13. 

54 Calcutta Review, LV, 46. See, “ A Traveller,” The Euphrates Valley Route 
to India , quoted in Andrew, Memoir on the Euphrates Valley Route to India p, 4, 
66 Andrew, Letter to Viscount Palmerston . . . pp, 35—45. ? 




General Francis R. Chesney Bust of Thomas Waghorn at Suez 



THE EUPHRATES VALLEY RAILWAY 337 

as to the navigability of the lower Euphrates, which reports had 
been shown incorrect by later surveys, 5 " there was little hesitation 
on the part of the public to support the venture. The Company’s 
shares were considerably oversubscribed within a few days after 
the books were opened, and enough capital was then in sight to 
carry on the work at once. 57 

After the close of the Crimean War, however, the state of 
Turkish finances was so low, that notwithstanding the favorable 
terms of the Turkish firman, the Company considered it wise, as a 
practical business precaution, to secure the definite support of the 
British Government in the form of a guarantee of a minimum 
rate of interest on the capital to be invested. Already some ques¬ 
tion had been raised by the critics of the enterprise as to the stability 
of any project sponsored by the Turkish Government not backed 
by tangible assets of some nature. 

But who guarantees the guarantee? [asked some of the 
doubters] . . . The financial difficulties of the Turkish 
Government are notorious. . . The schemes which are 
really beneficial to Turkey aiy projects commercially sound; 
projects whose advantages ajn so apparent to capitalists that 
the money required is forthcl^jisn^ witjjput a guarantee. 58 

When we have thrown away £r0,000,000 or £20,000,000 
on wild goose adventures [said the Times] , people may 
benefit by the experience purchased on terms so extravagant. 
To catch the public ear something vague and vast must be 
poured into it — something promising all, most probably 
ending in nothing. 59 

The logic of these objections led the Company to stipulate in¬ 
formally that, in case the Turkish Government granted the con¬ 
cession demanded, guaranteeing a 6 % return on the first branch 
of the line, the British Government would underwrite the agree¬ 
ment to the extent of guaranteeing a minimum rate of interest 
(4% ) on the capital invested in the first section of the line. The 
Foreign Office permitted it to be understood that this arrange¬ 
ment would undoubtedly be approved by Parliament. 

m Sir James Outram, for example, ascended the Euphrates early in May, 1857, 
in a little steamer, the Planet , drawing only 3 feet 8 inches of water. He reported 
that he found Chesney’s charts correct for some distance, hut further on they were 
u sadly wrong.” — London Times, 6 June, 1857. 

57 HamarJ's Parliamentary Debates, 3d Ser., CXLVII, 16583 London Times , 
17 Fob,, 1857. 

w Two Travellers, op, cit,, p. 32. 


59 London Times , 2 Dec., 1856. 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


338 

So sanguine were the expectations of the Company’s directors 
of receiving Parliamentary support, that with the securing of the 
Turkish concession they believed all doubt concerning the con¬ 
struction of the road to be at an end. Soon after the arrival in 
London of reports of the favorable action of the Porte on the rail¬ 
way project, plans were put into execution for the road. Prepara¬ 
tions were made looking toward the construction of harbor works 
at Seleucia by the Turkish Government, stores and supplies were 
sent out for the commencement of the railway itself, and con¬ 
tracts were let for the building of special shallow-draft, flat- 
bottomed boats to be used on the Euphrates. 

Lord Palmerston was very deliberate with regard to Gov¬ 
ernment action toward guaranteeing a minimum rate of interest 
on the capital to be invested in the railway enterprise. As the 
weeks slipped by and no move was made toward carrying out that 
feature of the original plan, fear began to arise that he was pur¬ 
posely temporizing and that his enthusiasm for the work had to 
some degree cooled. 60 

In order to effect decisive action as soon as possible, an im¬ 
posing delegation of friends of the Euphrates Valley project, 
consisting of 96 notables, mainly members of Parliament and 
conspicuous diplomatic and military men, waited on the Prime 
Minister on June 22. The deputation was headed by Lord 
Shaftesbury, who introduced the subject by calling attention to 
some of the obvious advantages of the alternative route and of the 
railway in particular. William Andrew followed with a rather 
extended review of both the political and commercial aspects of 
the project, and summed up the findings of the engineering staff 
during the recent surveys. Other members of the group dwelt 
on various important features of the line, showing particularly 
how communication would be facilitated thereby. 

In reply, Lord Palmerston assured the deputation that the 
Government were fully alive to the importance of the Euphrates 
route; that they had supported and would continue to support it. 
But he added that he could not at the moment give an opinion 
as to the guarantee on the capital invested. He would have to 
consult his colleagues on this matter. So he requested Mr. An¬ 
drew to put the proposition in writing, that it might receive a 

60 The slowness with which the British Government took active measures for the 
sending of re enforcements to India caused a good deal of exasperation. The Times, 
in the City Article of 10 August, said, u Many people are wondering whether some 
Russian agency has been at work in India. A more practical question would be 
whether it is at work in England. . . There is hardly a subject on which the people 
of England are at this moment more alive then that of the Euphrates route to the 
Persian Gulf. . ” Cf. The Express, 3 Oct., 1857. 



THE EUPHRATES VALLEY RAILWAY 339 

proper amount of consideration, and he concluded by saying that 
the Government would be happy to aid the railway if it was in their 
power.' 11 

The brief war with Persia early in 1857, and the announcement 
of the outbreak of the great Indian Mutiny in May, gave point 
to the whole matter and aroused a great deal of public interest. 
The Persian campaign, which was as successful as it was brief, 62 
fortunately ended in time for the transfer of British troops to the 
scenes of hostilities in India. Even before the news of the In¬ 
dian Revolt had reached England, the unrest in India and dif¬ 
ficulties in China had led to the sending out, in March, of four 
regiments destined for Hong Kong, and the next month four more 
regiments were despatched to India, all going by way of the Cape 
of Good Hope. 63 Meanwhile, more alarming reports pouring in 
from the Indian Presidencies focused attention on the need 
both for a quicker means of communication and for a more direct 
route by which troops and supplies could be sent out. 

It was while the oriental situation was at its worst that the mat¬ 
ter of guaranteeing a small rate of interest to the stockholders of 
the Euphrates Valley Railway Company finally came up in Par¬ 
liament. The proposed measure appeared to have every chance 
of success. The public had undoubtedly been enlisted in favor 
of the railway scheme. Those of the Government who feared 
that the Turkish Government would fail to make good its guaran¬ 
tee of a 6% return on the capital invested, leaving the financial 
burden on the British Government, were shown that it was alto¬ 
gether probable that, in case the revenues of the railway did not 
bring in a sufficient return, the Turkish Government would un¬ 
doubtedly furnish a part of the guaranteed 6% interest, and the 
British Government would be required to pay only that portion 
of a minimum rate of 4% which might be wanting above the profits 
of the railway and the funds supplied by the Turks. This made 
the necessity of the expenditure of any money in support of the 
venture by the British Government appear to be a very remote 
possibility, indeed. 04 

On the night of August 14, 1857, Mr. Sothern Estcourt, a 
member of the House who had been interested in the original 
Euphrates Expedition, introduced the question of a guarantee of 

61 The Times and Morning Herald, 23 June, 18575 Andrew, Letter to Viscount 
Palmerston . . . pp. 1-5. 

62 See the Treaty of 4 March, 1857, in Brit, and For. St. Pap., XLVII, 42—43. 
See also The History of the Indian Mutiny, p. 224. 

63 The Panmure Papers, II, 361-379. 

64 Andrew, Letter to Viscount Palmerston, pp. 20-21, 23-24, passim. 



340 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

a minimum rate of interest in the House of Commons. 68 In 
speaking on the subject, Estcourt pointed out that the Euphrates 
route was essential, not as a rival route to that through Egypt, 
but as a supplementary or alternative route. Many of the ad¬ 
vantages which had been urged in favor of the Euphrates line on 
other occasions were reviewed. He told the House he believed 
that “ on the whole surface of the globe they would not find so 
many miles as favorable for engineering purposes ” as along 
the Euphrates route. 66 The line, it was shown, would correlate 
well with existing railways in India, although, for the present, 
the Euphrates railway would extend only to the Euphrates, and 
from thence the communication would be carried on in iron river 
steamers and in ocean packets, thus completing the connection 
between the Mediterranean and the ports of Kurrachee and Bom¬ 
bay. The whole project having been presented at considerable 
length, Estcourt asked for a guarantee for the road covering a 
little more than the period of construction. 67 

Objections to the proposition were voiced by Mr. Crawford 
and Mr. Gladstone. Crawford considered the railway a “ very 
chimerical scheme ” on a number of grounds, and proposed a 
telegraph line instead, which, he thought, would have most of 
the political advantages of the railway and would avoid the ob¬ 
jections inherent in the railway plan. 68 Gladstone strongly ob¬ 
jected to the idea of giving a guarantee; he “ viewed a guarantee 
almost with horror.” He thought an outright cash subsidy much 
preferable. He supposed the Government would lose popularity 
by rejecting such a u philanthropic proposal,” but he thought it 
best not to give other countries a basis “ for alleging that we are 
setting an example of interference with their government and 
domestic affairs.” He was inclined to see in such a proposition 
a means of breaking up the European concert, and he thought the 
Suez Canal a much better proposition because of its international 
character. The Euphrates Valley Railway as a private commercial 
venture he was prepared to support; but it had been advocated 
primarily as a political project, and was objectionable for that 
reason. 69 

Others debated the qualities of the Euphrates scheme fro and 
con } agreeing in general that the railway should not be made a 

65 Estcourt had previously made several attempts to bring up the subject, but 
had apparently received intimations that the time was not ripe. See Hansard’s Pari. 
Deb.. 3d Ser., CXLVII, 1226, 1652. 

e6 Ibid., p. 1652. 

67 Ibid., pp. 1652-16625 The Times, 15 Aug., 1857. 

68 Hansard’s Pari. Deb., 3d Ser., CXLVII, 1662—1664. 

69 Ibid., pp. 1664-1672. 



THE EUPHRATES VALLEY RAILWAY 341 

“ stalking horse to cover up national animosities.” 70 The general 
tenor of the debate did not appear to favor the railway scheme. 
Still, the friends of the line did not despair, for Lord Palmerston 
had but a few days before indicated his entire approval of the 
plan. 71 When Palmerston rose to speak, however, he immediately 
crushed the whole project by indicating that Government support 
would not be given. “ However glad we should be to see that 
project completed,” he said, “ we cannot hold out the slightest 
encouragement that we are disposed, either directly or indirectly, 
to advance any money for the attainment of that end.” 72 He was 
prepared to promise Government support for a telegraph line to 
be carried down the Red Sea or through the Euphrates Valley to 
India, but he was convinced of the “ inexpediency of Govern¬ 
ment’s meddling with such enterprises ... to be carried out in a 
foreign state and the political messes which would result from 
such a connection.” 73 He maintained that the railway was un¬ 
necessary in any case, since the Suez route and telegraphic lines 
would provide for sufficient communication facilities, while there 
was a more direct railway route still, through European Turkey, 
Asia Minor, and Baluchistan. 74 

This crushing defeat gave the death blow to the Euphrates 
Valley Railway scheme for the time being, though it did not put 
an end to public, and even to Government, consideration of the 
use which might be made of the Euphrates route in times of 
emergency for the transport of troops. The sudden reversal of at¬ 
titude on the part of Lord Palmerston toward a scheme of 
transportation he was known lately to favor produced no little 
perplexity and bitterness among those who had relied completely 
on his support, and even the general public were at a loss to account 
for the turning down of the project at such a critical time. 

It subsequently developed that Palmerston’s sudden change of 
mind had been at least partly due to a conference with the Em¬ 
peror Napoleon III, who was then in England ostensibly to pay 
a visit to the King and Queen, on the very morning of August 14. 75 
Being summoned by telegraph to Osborne, where the Emperor 
was visiting, Palmerston had a long and secret interview after 
which he returned to London “ a changed if not a wiser man.” 76 
In consequence of this interview, Palmerston felt compelled to 

70 Ibid., p. 1675. 

71 Quarterly Reviewj, CII, 392 f.5 Lane-Poole, op. cit., p. 445. 

72 HansarcPs Pari. Deb., 3d Ser., CXLVII, 1677. 

73 Ibtd., pp. 1676, 1677. 

74 Ibid., pp. 1677-1683. 

75 London Times, 8, 10, 11 Aug., 1857. 

76 Lane-Poole, op. cit., p. 446j The Times (City Article), 4 May, 1858. 



342 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

give up the railway project, because of the attitude he had taken 
toward the Suez Canal enterprise . 77 As a means of preserving the 
nominal alliance between the two countries, Palmerston undoubt¬ 
edly considered it wiser to abandon the railway than to accept the 
canal, for the alliance obviously would not weather a policy of 
British aggression on both points. Moreover, it is altogether likely 
that the need of securing French consent for the use of the over¬ 
land route for the despatch of troops to India at this critical stage 
of the Indian Mutiny was a prominent factor in the abandon¬ 
ment of the rail plan. 7S In this manner the Emperor obtained 
a measure of satisfaction for the diplomatic defeat suffered by 
his agents at Constantinople early in the year when the French 
railway scheme had been turned down ,' 9 and De Lesseps was to 
this extent avenged. 

Here the Euphrates Valley project rested for the time being. 
In view of the many political obstacles to be encountered, the road 
could not safely be constructed through Turkish territory with¬ 
out the active support of the British Government, even had plenty 
of capital been available. Without some guarantee on the part 
of the British, the Turkish concession and the guarantee of 6% 
return on the investment would have lasted only so long as British 
diplomacy maintained an unquestioned supremacy at the Porte. 
Not even the armed intervention of France in Syria in i860 re¬ 
vived the project. The Euphrates Valley Railway therefore 
passed into the limbo of abandoned hopes until new issues brought 
about its revival under a different ministry nearly fifteen years 
later. It is worthy of note, however, that with the passing of the 
English project nothing further was heard of the French scheme 
which was to have demanded no guarantees of any kind. 

77 Percy Fitzgerald, The Great Canal at Suez, I, 97-98. 

78 Palmerston seems to have been more than a little anxious lest <c France and 
Russia unite to carry into effect some great scheme of mutual ambition. 5 ’ This 
gave point to his care not to cause particular offense to the Emperor Napoleon. — 
Ashley, Life of Palmerston , II, 127-128. 

79 Lane-Poole, of. cit., p. 4465 Quarterly Review, CXX, 354-397. 



CHAPTER XIV 


THE BUILDING OF THE SUEZ CANAL 

D E LESSEPS’ return to Egypt in November, 1856, was 
only just in time to prevent the despairing abandon¬ 
ment of the whole canal project by the Viceroy, who was 
met at every turn by intrigues, fostered if not designed by Eng¬ 
lish and Turkish agencies, and intended to render his policy in¬ 
tolerable. 1 In order to clear the atmosphere, De Lesseps encour¬ 
aged a military expedition into the desert. During the three 
months occupied by this manoeuvre, two noteworthy steps were 
taken. In order that the Viceroy might have the encouragement 
derived from tangible accomplishment, De Lesseps directed the 
surveying of the Fresh Water Canal, which was to supply the 
forces of construction on the ship canal and at the same time serve 
as a source of irrigation for the reclamation of the arid but fertile 
lands along the course of the proposed waterway. 2 The second 
step was of a very different nature. De Lesseps determined on 
the bold course of appealing directly from the English Govern¬ 
ment to the English people for approval and support. He utilized 
such leisure as his desert trip afforded, therefore, for outlining a 
lecture tour in England which would enable him to present his 
case in person and carry out an advertising campaign of a rather 
novel sort. 3 

In April, 1857, h e set out for England, armed with maps and 
plans, descriptive literature, and a number of letters of intro¬ 
duction to persons of importance in the mercantile as well as in 
the political world. The itinerary and details of the series of 
English meetings were arranged largely by Mr. (later Sir) Daniel 
A. Lange, an old acquaintance of De Lesseps, and the head of a 
large mercantile house having extensive interests in India and the 
Far East. 4 The route determined upon included most of the 

1 Percy Fitzgerald, The Great Canal at Suez , I, 7S—79. 

2 F. de Lesseps, The Suez Canal , p. 306. 

3 Fitzgerald, of. cit I, 80-82. 

4 John Spencer Price, The Early History of the Suez Canal (Rev. ed., London, 

343 



344 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

larger commercial centres in the kingdom. The municipal au¬ 
thorities were enlisted whenever possible and mass meetings were 
held in public buildings at which De Lesseps spoke, although he 
was limited almost entirely to the use of French. Lange in each 
instance gave the substance of the talk in English, questions were 
entertained, and usually resolutions were drawn up approving the 
canal plan. No financial support was asked. For the most part, 
the plan of the meetings met with success. 5 De Lesseps learned 
much about the interests and temper of the English people, whom 
he was compelled from any point of view to take into extensive 
consideration, and he undermined to some degree the offensive 
policy of the Government by his direct appeal to the country. 8 

The resolution voted by the meeting held at Liverpool on 
April 30 was characteristic of those prepared by other public 
meetings of the same kind and by various commercial organiza¬ 
tions : 

We, the bankers, merchants, and manufacturers of Liver¬ 
pool, consider that the execution of this great enterprise 
would be productive of the greatest advantages to the com¬ 
mercial and shipping interests of England, as of all other 
nations, and earnestly desire that the enterprise may attain, 
without any impediment, a speedy and successful realization. 7 

Such complimentary statements, judiciously used in advertising, 
were later employed with telling effect in the financial campaign. 

The resolutions recorded by commercial groups in favor of the 
canal only served to strengthen the hostility to it in official quar¬ 
ters. Since the close of the Crimean War, this opposition had been 
growing steadily bolder in tone, both at home and abroad. 8 In 

etc., pr. print., n.d.), pp. 5, 6. This little volume is based on Lange’s own account 
of these proceedings, and was written primarily to “ vindicate ” Lange from the 
many criticisms which arose from his connection with the Frenchman. 

5 Diplomatic Review, IV, 3525 “Memorial from the Public Meeting of Mer¬ 
chants, etc., of Newcastle-on-Tyne to the Board of Trade in favor of the Lesseps 
Canal Scheme,” 30 May, 1857, F. O., Suez Canal Papers, 78/1340. 

6 Lange, however, whose unselfish devotion was largely responsible for the 
carrying out of this program, was never given the least credit or honor by De 
Lesseps, who appears to have regarded him with a high degree of jealousy which 
was “ one of the greatest blots on De Lesseps’ record.” — Price, of. cit. y pp. 14, 15. 

7 F. de Lesseps, Inquiry into the Opinions of the Commercial Classes of Great 
Britain on the Suez Ship Canal , pp. 6-13. 

8 This is easily discovered in the correspondence of the Foreign Office, which by 
September, 1856, had apparently convinced itself that all that was desired by the 
Viceroy and his French adviser was a deep and defensible trench across the Isthmus, 
after which they would declare the canal impossible of completion, leaving the 
investors (“speculators”) to pay the bill. — F. 0 ., 78/1340, Clarendon to Redcliffie, 
9 Sept., 1856 (Confidential). 



THE BUILDING OF THE SUEZ CANAL 34 5 

June, upon his return to London from the provinces, De Lesseps 
was again assured by Lord Palmerston that “ You know that I 
have made no secret of the fact that I am utterly opposed to your 
scheme.” De Lesseps is said to have replied that, far from feel¬ 
ing discouraged by this opposition, he actually welcomed it “ as 
an engine for raising the capital.” 0 But Palmerston soon had op¬ 
portunity to deliver a strong blow at the “ bubble scheme ” in the 
House of Commons. In reply to a query put by Mr. Berkeley on 
July 7 as to whether “any objection be entertained by Her 
Majesty’s Government to the undertaking,” Lord Palmerston 
replied: 

Her Majesty’s Government certainly can not undertake 
to use their influence with the Sultan to induce him to give 
permission for the construction of this canal, because for the 
last fifteen years Her Majesty’s Government have used all 
the influence they possess at Constantinople and in Egypt to 
prevent that scheme from being carried into execution. I 
believe it is physically impracticable, except at an expense 
which would be too great to warrant the expectation of any re¬ 
turns. However, that is not the grounds on which the Gov¬ 
ernment have opposed the scheme. But the scheme is one 
hostile to the interests of this country, opposed to the stand¬ 
ing policy of England in regard to the connection of Egypt 
with Turkey, a policy which has been supported by the war 
and the treaty of Paris. The obvious political tendency 
... is to render more easy the separation of Egypt from 
Turkey. . . 

It is one of those plans so often brought out to make dupes 
of English capitalists and leave them poor. The scheme was 
launched, I believe, about fifteen years ago as a rival to the 
railway from Alexandria by Cairo to Suez, which, being in¬ 
finitely more practicable and likely to be more useful, ob¬ 
tained the preeminence. 10 

On subsequent occasions Lord Palmerston held forth on the 
floor of the House in similar fashion, denouncing the canal in 
scathing fashion, calling it “ physically impossible ” in one breath 
and speaking of the political problems it would create if carried 
through in another. He thought it would quickly silt up and he 

9 Quoted in Fitzgerald, of. cit. y I, 85-86. 

30 Hansard 3 s Parliamentary Debates , 3d Ser., CXLVT, 1043—10445 F. O., 
78/1340, Supplement to the Free Press , Oct., 1857. Ascribing the inception of the 
canal idea to a desire to compete with the Egyptian Railway was, of course, putting 
the cart before the horse. 



BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 


346 

was certain that sailing vessels could never use it, while he main¬ 
tained that in any event the railway was quicker and more useh 
ful. 11 All of these statements proved to be boomerangs. Being 
illogical, they failed to convince men who had studied the Refort 
of the International Scientific Commission, and being only dia¬ 
tribes, they alienated from the opposition many who otherwise 
found scant sympathy with a project which undoubtedly held many 
political possibilities. 12 Gladstone, for example, warned him that 
“ You have engaged in a contest in which you will in the end 
certainly give way 55 3 and again, u There is not a statesman in 
Europe who does not denounce the policy of this opposition as 
unwarrantable and selfish. 5513 Only those like Stephenson, who 
had long since definitely committed themselves and feared to lose 
prestige by surrender, or to whom political connections were man¬ 
datory, continued to support Palmerston in the House. Going 
further than many commercial organizations, which in passing 
resolutions on the subject gave real or implied censure to Palmer- 
ston 5 s attitude, a Foreign Affairs Committee of Sheffield went so 
far as to denounce the Prime Minister as a a criminal. 5514 Never¬ 
theless the Government stubbornly maintained its position, even 
though this position tended to become constantly more vulnerable. 

While De Lesseps was apparently making little headway to¬ 
ward having the canal concession approved at Constantinople, 
which had at the outset been assumed on all hands to be requisite 
before actual construction work could be undertaken, events were 
moving toward a breaking of the impasse . The British Govern¬ 
ment had thought in 1856 to substantiate their claim that the 
canal was impracticable from the engineering point of view by 
quietly despatching the corvette Tartarus , under the command 
of Capt. Mansell, to make thorough soundings in the Bay of 
Pelusium, where it was proposed to place the Mediterranean en¬ 
trance to the canal. The survey was well carried out, but the 
chart made by Capt. Mansell failed to disclose the unfavorable 
situation anticipated. On the contrary, nothing was found which 
did not largely agree with the Report of the International Scien¬ 
tific Commission. Capt. Mansell, who may not have wholly ap- 


11 Hansard's Pari. Deb., 3 d Ser., CXLVI, 1703, 1705. 

12 See, for instance, the criticisms of Palmerston’s remarks in the House of 

Commons regarding the canal as interference in the internal affairs of the Turkish 
Empire and contradicting the principle of non-interference adopted with regard to 
the Euphrates Valley Railway scheme, in the Ost-Deutsche Post , 10 Au*r 1S0 
(No. 188). 7 

13 Quoted in Joseph E. Nourse, The Maritime Canal of Suez . . . (Washing¬ 
ton, 1884), p. 23. 5 

14 Refort of the Sheffield Foreign Affairs Committee, Oct., 1857, P- 3- 



THE BUILDING OF THE SUEZ CANAL 347 

predated the motives which prompted his survey, failed at first 
to maintain a very discreet silence upon his findings, and in con¬ 
sequence his chart only added weight to the growing quantity of 
evidence that the canal was feasible. 15 

It was becoming evident toward the beginning of 1857 that 
the canal could make no headway as long as the French Govern¬ 
ment kept up active diplomatic pressure in Egypt and the British 
held sway at Constantinople. The French Government, there¬ 
fore, made pretense of dropping the matter entirely and instructed 
Consul Sabatier to cease all official efforts in Egypt, in behalf 
of the canal, though as it had no connection with De Lesseps, the 
French Foreign Office refused to bring any pressure to bear on 
him. 10 Actually, however, the theatre of French diplomatic ac¬ 
tion was only transferred from Egypt to Constantinople, where 
railway projects were beginning to enter into a subject already 
badly complicated. Here as at Paris the stormy words of Palmer¬ 
ston on the floor of the House of Commons began to retard the 
current of British diplomacy. 17 The representatives of other 
European nations were also beginning to announce the receipt 
of official instructions to promote the interests of the Canal Com¬ 
pany. 18 M. Thouvenel, French Ambassador at Constantinople, 
was therefore instructed to render such secret assistance to the 
canal as he could without actually committing the French Gov¬ 
ernment. 

This concentration of influence quickly made itself apparent in 
the vacillating tactics of the Turkish Ministers, and gave Lord 
Stratford new doubts of his ability long to keep the Porte in tow. 
“ With Reschid Pasha at the head of the Administration,” he 
wrote to Lord Clarendon in April, “ I cannot entertain any serious 
apprehension of his (Lesseps 1 ) succeeding so far as to obtain 
the Sultan’s consent, but I doubt on the other hand whether a de¬ 
cided refusal will be given. It is more probable that the Porte’s in¬ 
clination to side with Her Majesty’s Government will be expressed 
by some new pretext for delay.” 19 Lord Stratford’s opinion 

15 F. 0 . Suez Canal Papers, 78/1340, Bruce to Clarendon, 21 July, 18565 
Fitzgerald, of. cit., 1 , 69. 

16 F. O. 78/1340, Cowley to Clarendon, No. 29, 4 Jan., 18375 ibid., Bruce to 
Clarendon, No. 12, 6 March, 1857 (Confidential) j ibid., Cowley to Clarendon, 
No. 728, 7 May, 1857. 

17 Fitzgerald, of. cit., I, 91. See the Quarterly Review, CXI, 357-361. 

18 “ The Austrian Government believes strongly in the Canal — a highway 
which will restore to the commerce of Europe its former rectilinear direction instead 
of its present immense angle of deviation.” — Trans, from the Ost-Deuische Post, 
25 Dec., 1857 (No. 296). 

19 F. O. 78/1340, Redcliffe to Clarendon, No. 313, 6 April, 1857 (Confidential). 



348 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

proved to be well founded. The Egyptian Government continued 
to promote the completion of the railway line from Cairo to Suez, 
the Viceroy’s ardor for the canal appeared to have cooled, 20 and 
Redcliffe retained enough of his dominance at Stamboul to con¬ 
test successfully with the growing pressure brought to bear on the 
Turkish Ministers from all sides to sanction the canal scheme. 

By the close of the year 1857, this persistent and determined ob¬ 
struction of the canal by the British Government had produced a 
much clearer definition of that work as a political issue than Palm¬ 
erston with all of his bitter invectives had ever approached. It 
had become sufficiently evident to everyone that the real obj ection 
to the canal was that it would open up a new strait — un Bosphore 

and hence for the safety of Turkish and British interests, as 
well as for the sake of the peace of Europe, the canal should be 
made as much the subject of international engagements as the 
Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, and for the same general rea- 
son." The Austrian Government was said to be anxious for a 
common agreement on this matter before the canal was constructed 
so that it might not become the sole property “ of a great naval 
power.” 22 There is nothing to indicate that this point of view 
per se was particularly acceptable to the British Government, but 
since it offered another means of postponing definite action by the 
Porte on the canal concession, the Turkish Ministers were en¬ 
couraged to insist that their ratification of the Viceroy’s conces¬ 
sion would be impossible until all of the European powers 
interested had come to an agreement on the subj ect. 28 

The course of diplomacy at Constantinople caused De Lesseps 
again to employ his personal influence at that strategic centre. Ar¬ 
riving early in December, 1857, he soon resumed the efforts which 
he had previously given up in February, 18 5’5. He found the 
situation much as he had left it, with Lord Stratford de Redcliffe 
still determining the foreign policies of the Turkish Ministers, 
whose personal sympathies lay, they privately averred, with De 
Lesseps. Lord Stratford, however, was on the point of severing 
his long connection with the Porte as the Great Eltchi, partly as a 
result of the agreement reached by Palmerston and the Emperor 

20 F. O. 78/1340, Bruce to Clarendon, No. 3, 5 Jan., 1857; ibid., Clarendon to 
Bruce, No. 7, 19 Jan., 1857; ibid., Bruce to Clarendon, No. 12, 6 March, 1857 (Con¬ 
fidential); ibid., No. 13, 23 March, 1857 (Confidential); ibid., No. 17, 28 March, 
1857. 

21 See De Lesseps, Inquiry into the Ofinions of the Commercial Classes of Great 
Britain . . . p. 128; Quarterly Review, CII, 354—362. 

22 Ost-Deutsche Post, 25 Dec., 1857 (No. 296). 

23 F. O. 78/1340, Redcliffe to Clarendon, No. 1067, 9 Dec., 1857 (Confidential). 



THE BUILDING OF THE SUEZ CANAL 349 

Napoleon III at Osborne / 4 and De Lesseps had high hopes of 
being able to surmount all other obstacles at the Porte. 

Such hopes were premature. Before his departure, Lord Strat¬ 
ford had impressed upon the Turkish Ministers the necessity of 
guarding against two great dangers which would undoubtedly 
arise in connection with the canal, namely, that the Great Powers 
might go to war to determine its control, and that it might result 
in the separation of Egypt from Turkey. The absence of the 
magnetic personality of the Great Ambassador could not fail to 
dissipate some of the influence of his arguments, but to guard 
against a diplomatic revolution at such a critical time, the British 
Foreign Office let it be understood that a change in representatives 
at Constantinople did not indicate any change in policy. About the 
same time the sudden death of Reschid Pasha, who had been 
steeped in English prejudices, made the British Foreign Office 
very apprehensive with regard to maintaining its prestige. On 
January 1, 1858, a telegram in cypher was sent to Mr. Charles 
Alison, charge d’affaires at the Porte pending the arrival of Sir 
Henry Bulwer as Ambassador, containing the following signifi¬ 
cant instructions: 

Inform Grand Vizier that we have no reason to believe 
that any change has taken place in the policy of the Porte re¬ 
specting the Suez Canal, but if the Sultan were to give his 
consent to a scheme the direct and obvious obj ect of which 
is to separate Egypt from Turkey, the Sultan must not ex¬ 
pect that the maintenance of the integrity of the Ottoman 
Empire could hereafter be a principle to guide the policy 
of the Great Powers of Europe because the Sultan would 
himself have been a party to the setting aside of that 
principle . 25 

Three days later, Mr. Alison had the satisfaction of return¬ 
ing to the Foreign Office the reply of Aali Pasha, the new Grand 
Vizier, which was a monument to the effectiveness of the diplo¬ 
macy of Lord Stratford. 

. . . Aali Pasha desired me to inform you [wrote the first 
interpreter of the Embassy], that the Porte still withholds 
its consent to the construction of that canal, that in con¬ 
sequence of their determination he had been requested by 
the Council to draw up a statement setting forth the Porte’s 

24 De Lesseps, Lettres , Journal et Documents four servir a Phistoire du Canal de 
Suez, 1854, 1855, 1856 (Paris, 1875), 2d Sen, p. 148. 

25 F. 0 ., Suez Canal Papers, 78/1421, No. 1, 1 Jan., 1858. 



350 BRITISH ROUTES TO INDIA 

readiness to view M. de Lesseps’ proposals in a favorable 
light on certain conditions, to which, he felt satisfied, it 
would be out of the power of the projectors to accede. . . 

The intention of the Porte in adopting this mode of pro¬ 
ceeding is to declare itself opposed to M. de Lesseps’ under¬ 
taking and to guard its own interests for the future in the 
event of public opinion in England ultimately counteracting 
the intentions or modifying the views of Her Majesty’s 
Government respecting the construction of the Suez Canal. 

I was also to give you the formal assurance that the con¬ 
sent of the Porte would never be given to the project until 
Her Majesty’s Government had expressed their willingness 
to sanction it. 26 

This statement from the Turkish Ministry, given formally 
though not in a signed statement, had considerable bearing on the 
course of the negotiations in 1858. It enabled English officials 
to point out to those favoring the canal that the Foreign Office 
had received an official written promise that Turkish approval 
would never be given the canal scheme until British consent had 
been secured, while at the same time the Porte could deny that 
such a statement had been given in writing. 27 All through the 
year 1858, in fact, rumors thickened and intrigues increased re¬ 
garding the canal, due in part to ministerial and diplomatic changes 
in several countries and the growing effectiveness of propaganda 
campaigns both for and against the canal. 28 

The fall of Palmerston in February and the accession of the 
Derby Ministry with Disraeli in one of the principal offices, al¬ 
though hailed with delight by friends of the canal, failed to 
make any material change in the official attitude of the British 
Government. Shortly after receiving word of this event, Aali 
Pasha, who was perhaps secretly in favor of the canal, or at least 
willing to oblige the Viceroy whose bountiful presents he had 
received, directed M. Musurus, the Turkish Envoy in London, 
to ascertain the views of the new cabinet with regard to the canal. 
Lord Malmesbury replied that “ we entirely concur in the course 
followed by our Predecessors with regard to the projected Canal, 
and that we put implicit trust in the formal assurance given by the 

26 F. O. 78/1421, Enclosure in No. i8, Alison to Lord Clarendon, 4 Jan., 1858. 

27 Ibid. 3 Enclosures in Alison’s No. 190, 25 Feb., 1858, to Foreign Office $ De 
Lesseps, Lettres , Journal et Documents , 2d Ser., p. 171. 

28 was discovered, for example, that De Lesseps was receiving from the 
Viceroy the sum of 39,000 francs per month for advertising and propaganda uses, 
and that the Viceroy had paid some £20,000 to the continental press in 1857 for 
articles keeping the subject of the canal alive. — F. O., 78/1421, Correspondence 
between Consul John Green and the Foreign Office, 7, 18, and 2 6 Jan., 1858. 



THE BUILDING OF THE SUEZ CANAL 351 

Turkish Government that the consent of the Porte would never 
be given to the Project until Her Majesty’s Government had ex¬ 
pressed their willingness to sanction it.” 29 

De Lesseps, who had prolonged his stay in Constantinople hop¬ 
ing for a favorable “ break,” was soon apprised of the stand of the 
new Ministry, touching the matter of the canal, and realized more 
fully than before the futility of expecting such agreements as had 
been reached between the British and French Governments really 
to change the opposition of the former. This realization became 
the more vivid when, on March 26, the matter of the canal was 
again brought up in the House of Commons by Mr. Darby Grif¬ 
fith. The Government’s answer was given by Disraeli, who con¬ 
sidered it “ a most futile attempt, and totally impossible to be 
carried out and he added that even if it were feasible, the opera¬ 
tion of nature would soon totally defeat the ingenuity of man. 30 
Disraeli was cautious enough, however, to remark that the House 
of Commons had nothing to do with the practicability of the canal 
idea or with the method of its financing, leaving the inference that 
only in the external bearings of the canal was the British Govern¬ 
ment concerned. A new debate in the House of Commons on 
June 1, opened by Mr. Roebuck, brought forth only an elabora¬ 
tion of previous pronouncements. The warm support tendered 
to the canal project by various members of the House apparently 
made no impression on the almost fanatical hostility displayed by 
Stephenson, who still maintained that the canal was a “ physical 
impossibility ” and that if built it would be but a “ stinking 
ditch,” 31 and by Lord Palmerston, who reiterated his former ob¬ 
jections to the whole plan, basing his opposition on the danger 
which would arise should the main channel of access to India lie 
through a narrow passage controlled by a foreign and not always 
friendly government. Gladstone believed that the canal offered 
decided advantages to Great Britain, which country, he insisted, 
would actually control the canal from the beginning through its 
naval power and its possession of strategic bases, regardless of the 

29 F. O. 78/14.21, the Earl of Malmesbury to M. Musurus, 11 March, 1858. 
The words with which this statement was concluded were identical with those con¬ 
tained in the formal assurance given by Aali Pasha on January fourth, and were 
not twisted to contain a new meaning, as De Lesseps said in his Journal. — See his 
Lettres, Journal el Documents, 2d Ser., p. 1745 Fitzgerald, of. cit., 1 , 103. 

30 Hansard's Pari. Deb., 3d Ser., CXLIX, 849. 

S1 Robert Stephenson, A Letter addressed to the Editor of the Austrian Gazette 
... in refly to the statements of M. de Negrelli (London, 1858), pp. 7-17. The 
original engineering objection to the idea of a sea level canal had rested on the 
belief that a difference of some 33 feet in the levels of the Red Sea and the Mediter¬ 
ranean would produce a current too strong to be ascended. Stephenson -based much 
of his disapproval on the assumption that a canal having no current flowing